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Big law firms gave $8 million more than 2000

The American Lawyer reports: Law firm balance sheets took big hits this election year, as politically active firms filled campaign coffers at an unprecedented rate. Despite new rules designed to reduce the influence of big money in politics, the cover charge to play in Washington, D.C., only increased in 2004.

This was the first presidential race governed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, passed in 2002. Championed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., the law banned unregulated and unlimited soft money contributions and doubled the amount of hard money an individual could contribute -- to $2,000 per candidate. As a result, many expected to see political contributions decline. But donors simply dug new tunnels. In a departure from previous cycles, law firms launched or expanded their political action committees, while individual lawyers took advantage of the increased limits and donated more to federal candidates.

To gauge that giving, The American Lawyer asked the Center for Responsive Politics to sort donation records of the Federal Election Commission by law firm. The result was current as of Oct. 25 (a fairly accurate snapshot, given that presidential candidates were by then receiving only public finance). Am Law 100 firms gave a total of $31,246,609 -- an increase of more than $8 million from the $23,099,587 they gave in 1999-2000, and more than double the combined donations in the previous election cycle. In 2003-04, Am Law 100 firms gave Democrats $19,109,508 and Republicans $12,053,104. -- law.com - Article