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Special Interests: Judy Sarasohn

Law Firms Boosted Their Campaign Donations

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, December 23, 2004; Page A21

The largest law firms across the country increasingly upped their campaign contributions -- from political action committees and individual lawyers -- during the recent presidential election campaign, according to a new report.

And the biggest donations, says American Lawyer magazine in an article due out Jan. 3, "came from firms entrenched in lobbying and government relations, many of which doubled their 2000 donations."

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The biggest of the big givers was Piper Rudnick, which had acquired the politically active lawyer/lobbyists of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand in 2000.

According to American Lawyer, Piper Rudnick gave a total of $1,449,267, of which $781,796 came from its PAC and the rest from individuals at the firm. The PAC contribution was almost four times the combined donations in 2000 of Piper Rudnick and Verner Liipfert. (As of Jan. 1, Piper Rudnick will be known as the megafirm DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, the result of a merger with British firm DLA and the earlier merger this year with Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich.)

Rounding out the top-five givers -- PAC and individuals combined -- were Blank Rome, $1,432,770; Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, $1,322,219; Greenberg Traurig, $1,288,041; and Skadden, Arps, $1,107,437.

As a whole, the Am Law 100 firms gave a total of $31,246,609, an increase of more than $8 million over what they contributed in 1999-2000. The firms gave more than $19 million to Democrats in 2003-2004 and more than $12 million to Republicans. (The Center for Responsive Politics sorted out the Federal Election Commission financial contribution records by law firm, as of Oct. 25.)

Piper Rudnick lawyers emphasized that the firm's PAC contributions were bipartisan -- well, actually, 54 percent went to Republicans, 44 percent went to Democrats and the rest to nonpartisan PACs, candidates and committees.

"It frankly reflects the political realities of Washington," said William H. Minor, a Piper Rudnick partner with a campaign finance law practice. The PAC contributions "reflect the collective thinking of the firm," which "works hard for political balance."

The law firms' PACs grew in recent years partly because of the new campaign finance law, making the PACs' "hard money" contributions more valuable to candidates, Minor said.

"A PAC is a way for firms and individual lawyers to be active in the political process and public policy arena," Minor said.

Besides the donations to the presidential candidates, some of Piper Rudnick's big contributions included $54,800 to the Democratic National Committee Services Corp.; $44,000 to Illinois Democrat Barack Obama's successful campaign for the Senate; $32,800 to the National Republican Congressional Committee; and $31,250 to the Republican National Committee.

On the Education Front

Spinning around the revolving door, Brian W. Jones, general counsel of the Department of Education, will join the College Loan Corp., one of the nation's largest student loan providers, as executive vice president and general counsel, effective Jan. 24.

Before joining the Education Department, Jones was an attorney at Curiale, Dellaverson, Hirschfeld, Kelly and Kramer, where he counseled colleges and universities. He was also a deputy legal affairs secretary to then-California Gov. Pete Wilson (R), a counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and president of the Center for New Black Leadership.

Mark Brenner has moved up from executive vice president to president.

Also on the education front . . . Holland & Knight is enlarging its education policy team with the addition of Amy Starzynski, the former chief operating officer of the Georgia Department of Education, who signs on with the D.C. law firm as senior counsel.

Starzynski earlier was district counsel and communications director for Johnny Isakson -- Georgia's newly elected GOP senator -- as well as a lawyer for KPMG Poland in Warsaw and a vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Other Career Moves

Furthermore . . . financial lobbyist and former Hill aide Robert C. Shepler has joined the National Association of Manufacturers' tax policy department.

Most recently, Shepler was director of federal affairs for Financial Executives International. Earlier, he worked for Sen. Robert C. Smith (R-N.H.) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), then-chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Gardner Carton & Douglas has added James W. Twaddell IV and Paul A. Seltman to its government relations practice. Twaddell, associate director of government affairs at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and previously an aide to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), is a government relations director at Gardner Carton. Seltman, associate vice president at the Advanced Medical Technology Association and earlier a special assistant in the office of the assistant secretary for legislation at the Department of Health and Human Services, is counsel to Gardner Carton.

Peter M. Murphy, former general counsel of the Marine Corps, has joined Holland & Knight as a partner in the law firm's legislative and regulatory practice.

Jody Clarke, previously vice president for communications at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, has joined Strat@comm, a communications and public affairs firm that specializes in transportation issues.


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