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Lawyers come through with campaign contributions

About 14 percent of Maryland donors’ contributions to President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns came from the state’s legal sector, with the overwhelming share of the money going to the incumbent.

Maryland’s legal industry — including judges, paralegals, legal secretaries, law professors, lawyers and others — contributed about $3.1 million to both campaigns, but only about 20 percent of that money went to Romney, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by The Daily Record.

Those giving to political campaigns list their occupation and employer when filing donations. The Daily Record’s analysis included all campaign contribution records in Maryland up to Oct. 17, the last day to donate before pre-general election filings were due from both campaigns Oct. 25.

Nationwide, lawyers and law firms were among the top donors in this year’s presidential campaign. They were the second highest contributors to the Obama campaign at $25 million, and the fourth highest givers to Romney, at $12.3 million, according to The Center for Responsive Politics.

“A lot of candidates are lawyers and or people who work with lawyers,” said Guy E. Flynn, an attorney with DLA Piper LLP (US) in Baltimore. “I think there’s a natural tendency for candidates to go to law firms just as they do other companies. I think lawyers and law firms, in particular, have a big population of highly engaged, highly civic-minded people who tend to want to support the candidate of their choice, and giving is emblematic of that.”

Overall, Maryland donors had given $16.5 million to Obama’s campaign and $5.4 million to Romney, donating $6.4 million to Republican presidential candidates overall by the Oct. 17 cutoff, according to the FEC.

By occupation

In the state, donors in the legal industry made up 15 percent of contributions to Obama and 11 percent of Romney contributions.

Attorney donors in Maryland (including retired and unemployed attorneys) gave $2.3 million to Obama and about $599,000 to Romney.

Richard Briffault, a law professor and campaign finance expert at Columbia Law School in New York, said lawyers usually donate for three reasons: They have social connections to the person running for office; donating will help them get access to elected officials in the future; or they support policies the politician is advocating.

“Some may genuinely believe in the positions taken,” Briffault said. “There is a level of a person believing it’s the right thing to do. Some may be interested in that, by giving contributions, they will have access to officials later in terms of issues they are involved in.”

The long hours lawyers keep can also be a factor, Flynn said.

“We are busy,” Flynn said. “As lawyers, the easiest way to involve oneself is through political contributions.”

Law professors in the state donated $51,315 to Obama and only $150 total to Romney.

Donations from judges were less overall, with $13,484 to Obama and $375 to Romney.

Paralegals came in fourth, with about $10,400 to Obama and none to Romney.

Richard L. Hasen, a law professor and campaign finance expert at University of California, Irvine School of Law, said those working in the legal sector tend to be highly educated, wealthy and politically motivated, which leads them to donate.

“Many of them are strong partisans,” Hasen said. “Lawyers on average are wealthier than the average person. When you put that all together, it’s not a surprise lawyers are big campaign contributors.”

By firm: donations to Obama

Maryland residents (attorneys and non-attorneys) working at three Washington, D.C., law firms gave the most to Obama:

-WilmerHale (Wilmer, Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP): $60,462

-Arnold & Porter LLP: $60,089.

-Covington & Burling LLP: $42,471

Of firms with offices in Maryland, DLA Piper, which has offices in Maryland as well as Washington, D.C., would have been fourth on that list. It tops the list of law firms with offices in Maryland:

-DLA Piper: $38,520

-Hogan Lovells (Baltimore and Washington, D.C.): $33,605

-Zuckerman Spaeder LLP in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.: $20,800

-Venable LLP in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.: $18,288

Janet L. McDavid, an attorney at Hogan Lovells who donated to Obama, said she gave to the president four years ago and wanted to continue to support him in this election. This election season, she said, her dog is even wearing a scarf covered in the Obama campaign’s signature sunrise symbol.

“It was pretty clear there was a large war chest on the other side,” McDavid said. “We don’t give tremendous amounts of money, but we have some means and we think the president stands for important values and pursued important issues.”

McDavid said her job as an attorney gave her some insight into the campaign issue of federal spending because many of her clients work for the federal government. Romney wants to cap federal spending.

“There is a perception outside Washington that federal employees are lazy and don’t do much,” McDavid said. “Those of us who deal with federal employees know better. They are incredibly hard-working.”

Donations to Romney

Over in the Romney camp, few top donors worked at law firms with Maryland offices. Those working for these law firms gave the most to Romney:

-Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington, D.C.: $12,500

-Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C.: $10,500

-Sidley Austin LLP in Washington, D.C.: $9,000

In comparison, those working for law firms with Maryland offices donated much less to Romney compared to those working in D.C. The top donors include:

-Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones P.A.: $8,500

-Gebhardt & Smith LLP in Baltimore: $7,860

-DLA Piper: $5,750

-Krause & Ferris in Annapolis: $3,825

While trial lawyers are traditionally viewed as Democrats, Trace Krueger, a trial lawyer at Baxter, Baker, Sidle, Conn & Jones P.A. in Baltimore, gave to the Romney campaign this year, his first time donating to a political campaign. He said he felt donating money was one of the few methods to give Republican support in a state that traditionally votes Democrat.

“It’s really the only way I have as a Republican in Maryland to have my voice heard,” Krueger said. “Voting Republican in Maryland is a tough, uphill battle. I feel strongly about this presidential campaign.”

Many of Krueger’s clients are health care providers and hospitals, and he said working with them has led him to disagree with Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act.

“To the extent where we can have a candidate revisit legislation and get some things in it to help physicians and hospitals, it seems more likely be Mitt Romney than President Obama,” Krueger said.

Contributions by self-employed attorneys to both campaigns made up 10.5 percent of the money given by the legal community in the state. Self-employed attorneys added up to 10.2 percent of the money given to Obama and 12 percent of donations to Romney in Maryland.

C. Paul Smith, a solo attorney with offices in Frederick and Rockville, donated to Romney’s campaign this year and when he ran for the Republican nomination in the primary elections four years ago.

“I have a hard time understanding someone in my position, as solo or small firm attorney, could be supportive of President Obama’s policies,” Smith said. “So many of them put a very difficult and serious economic strain on businesses.

Smith, who was also an alternate delegate at this year’s Republican convention, said his status as a solo attorney also leads him to support Romney’s economic policies.

“Because I am a businessman as well as lawyer, in other words, I’m not just getting a salary,” Smith said. “I run a business. I’m very much aware of different taxes that affect my business. … I’m probably more attuned to what’s going on as a solo practitioner as opposed to someone who works for law firm.”

On both sides

Collectively, employees at DLA Piper were among the top givers to both campaigns in the Maryland legal sector.

“As a firm, we have always been really good about being bipartisan in terms of who lawyers are contributing to,” Flynn said. “Those choices are made freely around the country. We have lawyers contributing to both parties.”

DLA Piper attorney Brad Bloodworth, who gave to the Romney’s campaign, said he donated because he is too busy with work and family to volunteer.

“I think it’s important for people to contribute how best they can whether it’s with time or money or some combination of both,” Bloodworth said.

While Bloodworth has given to presidential campaigns in the past, this season is the most he has ever donated, he said.

Bloodworth said he was interested in business issues during this election campaign.

“Yes, I am a lawyer, but law is my business and I think as a business person, I’m very interested in several campaign issues,” Bloodworth said. “It just happens that my business is practicing law.”

Of those business campaign issues, the economy was his main concern, Bloodworth said.

“I think the economy is in real trouble,” Bloodworth said. “I think the president’s policies have not helped us recover as we should and I think Mitt Romney’s proposed policies will help us recover as we should. It’s a one-issue election for me.”

Flynn donated to Obama’s campaign this year and in 2008, and he and his wife were involved in organizing a fundraiser at Morgan State University in September at which first lady Michelle Obama spoke. The event raised $500,000, Flynn said.

“I think lawyers tend to be at the forefront of civic engagement,” Flynn said. “As a profession, lawyers tend as a group to be involved in following or drafting policy.”