Friday, May 9, 2008

Obama's "Substance" And Lawyers' Subsistence

The Courier-Journal today reprints yesterday's editorial from The Washington Post that praises Senator Barack Obama's "appealing but also insubstantial" phrases on the campaign trail but notes that "as Obama moves into general-election mode, whether and how he adds substance will be key."

One thing that should be evident from Obama's list of contributors is that his "substance", if ever articulated, will translate into more intrusive regulation of our lives by Washington, D.C. bureaucrats. That should be clear from this month's issue of The American Lawyer, which includes not only a scorecard of lawyer contributors to Obama and Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain, but also its annual AmLaw 100 list of the biggest and most profitable law firms in the country.

First, the list of contributors from big law firms tilts dramatically in favor of Obama (and Clinton) over McCain. Of the twenty major firms analyzed from data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, 1,794 lawyers had contributed to Obama, 1,282 lawyers had donated to Clinton, and only 356 had given to McCain.

Second, Obama supporters come from law firms that perform immensely profitable work. For example, Obama's former law firm -- Sidley Austin, based in Chicago -- has the most lawyers who contributed to Obama: 217 (compared to 63 Clinton donors and 10 McCain donors). Last year Sidley Austin's profits per partner were $1,380,000.00. Or consider New York-based Skadden, Arps, where 170 attorneys donated to Obama, 113 to Clinton and only 26 to McCain: Skadden's profits per partner were $2,280,000.00.

We are not suggesting that the lawyers at these big firms have not honestly earned what they take home. But given how intelligent lawyers are (or at least think that they are), one would expect them to donate to the candidate who the lawyers think has their best interests in mind. The devil may be in the details of Obama's new government regulations -- if he ever reveals their "substance" as WaPo would like -- but rest assured lawyers will be well employed to interpret and litigate them.

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