Lawyers are powering Democratic presidential campaigns, continuing the legal industry’s tradition of supporting liberal candidates and causes.
Still, in the early stages of the presidential election cycle, lawyers and employees of law firms have already given $10 million to Democratic candidates, including $5.5 million between April and June.
Only retirees — a much larger group — have contributed more to Democrats seeking the White House, giving $8.5 million during the second quarter and $22.6 million this cycle.
Former Vice President Joe Biden has received $1.9 million from the legal field, the most of any candidate. He is followed by Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, who received $1.5 million and $1.1 million from the industry, respectively. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg received $955,000, while Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have both taken more than $700,000 this cycle.
Biden, Harris, Booker, Klobuchar and Gillibrand are among the dozen Democratic presidential candidates with law degrees, though Gillibrand is the only one of the five to spend significant time working in corporate law.
Much of Biden’s fundraising total came from employees of personal injury law firm Morgan & Morgan, who contributed a colossal $420,690 to the former vice president’s campaign, providing more money than any other organization during the second quarter. The firm’s founder, Florida politics power player John Morgan, hosted an extravagant fundraiser for Biden in May, charging as much as $25,000 for a ticket.
Several of the former vice president’s other large hauls can be traced back to big-dollar fundraisers hosted by powerhouse law firms. Biden raked in more than $250,000 between Paul, Weiss et al and Weitz & Luxenberg — New York law firms that each hosted fundraisers for the former vice president on June 17.
Those firms are among the most generous organizations for Democratic candidates so far this cycle. Employees of Paul Weiss make up the top organizational contributor to Harris ($164,705), Booker ($136,750), Klobuchar ($70,600) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio ($47,250). Morgan & Morgan employees gave more to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock ($95,200) than any other organization.
Harris and Klobuchar also accepted major contributions from employees of Kirkland & Ellis, the firm most recently in the news for helping sex offender Jeffrey Epstein reach his 2007 plea deal. Harris, who received $85,000, faced backlash last week after her husband attended a fundraiser hosted by six of the firm’s associates. A campaign spokesman noted that none of those associates were involved with Epstein’s plea deal.
Gillibrand, who has generally struggled with fundraising, has received a significant boost from two of her former employers: Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Davis, Polk & Wardwell. Employees of the two firms have contributed a combined $143,000 to the New York senator’s campaign.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a former Harvard Law School professor, vowed to eschew the traditional big-donor fundraisers where some of her competitors have reaped in big bucks. But the Massachusetts senator has still managed to receive nearly $430,000 in contributions from lawyers and law firms this cycle.
The industry was also the top source of contributions for former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, who received $298,000. Castro has generally relied on grassroots funding, with 74 percent of his fundraising coming from donors who gave less than $200.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) received just $167,000 from the lawyers and law firms, the least of any top-tier candidate.
The staunchly liberal industry gave 79 percent of its federal contributions to Democrats in the 2018 cycle. In 2016, lawyers gave twice as much to Hillary Clinton — $42 million — as they gave to President Donald Trump.
That pattern has continued as Trump, who has raised unprecedented levels of money during his reelection campaign, brought in less than $500,000 from lawyers and law firms this cycle. Retirees are the president’s top contributors, followed by real estate and other business.