Arent Fox, Barack Obama, Biglaw, Election 2012, Patton Boggs, Politics

Candidates For President And The Law Firms That Love Them

If you want to run for president in this country, you best have quality legal counsel.

It doesn’t matter which party you are from. It doesn’t matter what your political platform is. It doesn’t matter if you believe Obamacare is exactly like your own health care plan or if you think marriage is a sacred vow shared by a man, a woman, and millions of viewers on The Bachelor. It turns out you still need competent legal counsel.

Biglaw legal counsel, as it happens. Check out the law firms that are advising the 2012 presidential candidates…

Perkins Coie has had the ear of the president, but lots of firms would like that distinction.

We all know that President Barack Obama is down with Perkins Coie. President Obama’s longtime legal adviser, Bob Bauer, recently returned to the firm, after a stint as White House counsel.

Meanwhile, Ken Vogel of Politico has a full report on firms that are advising the people who would like to have Obama’s job:

Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann may represent competing visions of the direction of the Republican Party, but both their presidential campaigns are relying on legal advice from partners at Patton Boggs, the Washington power law firm that pioneered innovative fundraising strategies for 2008 GOP White House hopefuls that left advocates for reducing the role of money in politics crying foul.

The moderate Jon Huntsman and the libertarian Ron Paul, meanwhile, have entrusted legal work from their campaigns to lawyers at a white shoe firm with a less aggressive, more bipartisan political law practice – Arent Fox…

The selection of a lawyer can reveal a lot about a presidential campaign, not only its ideology but also its strategy and the resources it has to pursue that strategy since elite firms’ legal bills can cost campaigns as much as $50,000 a month during the primaries.

One of the @atlblog Twitter followers poked a little fun at Politico’s reporting:

Comical Politico piece: 1) Arent Fox a “white shoe” firm? 2) $50k monthly bill from #Biglaw is remarkable.

What jumped out at me was Michele Bachmann’s choice of Patton Boggs. It’s so… rational. It’s so normal. It’s such an “establishment” choice for the Tea Party darling:

It turned some heads when she retained as her presidential campaign lawyer Patton Boggs partner Bill McGinley, a well-regarded and cautious establishment Republican who had served as general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee.

McGinley had helped Bachmann set up her congressional campaign and leadership political action committees, and, with his help, she has built a surprisingly robust presidential campaign apparatus that has helped her surge in the polls.

I like how nobody wants to get “crazy” when it comes to legal representation. No matter how “fringe” you might be, you always want an established, conservative (with a small “c”) lawyer sitting next to you. And if I sound openly giddy about the prospect of Bachmann winning the Republican nomination, it’s because I am.

In any event, you shouldn’t expect lawyers to show any political loyalty. They are lawyers, after all:

A fellow Arent Fox lawyer, Brett Kappel, has worked for Democratic candidates, but is representing Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign, which has used guerrilla online fundraising techniques to outpace rivals considered more viable by the GOP establishment.

Look, if something serious goes down (think recount), then the candidate will undoubtedly bring in specialists from whatever area they need. For the law firms that are working with candidates at this stage of the game, there is only one job: bring in as much money as possible, legally.

This year, though, the cutting edge issues for political lawyers – as well as the one that most concerns money-in-politics advocates and legal ethicists – have to do with the rise of big-money independent groups empowered by court and regulatory rulings to accept unlimited donations from corporations and unions to air ads attacking or supporting presidential and other federal candidates.

The Supreme Court in its 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. FEC held that such spending did not have the potential to corrupt politicians that it benefited, as long as those politicians and their party committees have no communication with, or sway over, the groups or their spending decisions. The FEC is still in the process of sorting out the specifics, ruling late last month that candidates can appear at the groups’ fundraisers and raise money for them under federal limits.

Yep, the FEC is still making up the rules as they go along. It’s a perfect time for lawyers to be retained by presidential candidates.

Judge a campaign by its lawyer [Politico]

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