Law professor Derek Muller has put together some interesting data on law firm contributions to the Biden and Trump campaigns, very broadly defined, between 2017 and 2020. The broad definition is that he included contributions not just directly the campaigns themselves — obviously the Biden campaign didn’t formally exist for the majority of this time frame — but to the DNC, the RNC, and two major aggregators of campaign contributions, ActBlue and WinRed. So while all of the Trump contributions were to the Trump campaign, which as you may recall from such television series as America’s Most Disturbing Fascist Videos never stopped going after Trump was elected in 2016, some of the “Biden” contributions were to a more generic funding of the eventual Democratic candidate, rather than to Biden per se.
Also, Mueller chose not to try to separate out contributions from lawyers from contributions made by non-lawyer employees of these firms. He believes this decision ought to have very little effect his conclusions, as his spot check of a few firms indicates that somewhere around 97.5% to 98% of all the money is coming from lawyers, but it’s worth noting.
As to the data themselves, there are two ways of looking at them. If you’re in the political science department at the University of Austin, they reveal that there’s a possibly unconstitutional bias against conservatives at big law firms. Employees at these firms gave $64 million to the Democratic presidential campaign effort during the 2020 election cycle, and $11 million to the Trump campaign, that is, a 85% to 15% ratio.
On the other hand, if you’re actually opposed to the fascist cult of personality that is Trumpism, these data are very disturbing in exactly the opposite way. Three and a half years ago, I did a similar study regarding contributions to the Trump and Clinton presidential campaigns in 2016, and found radically different data. Now this requires some caveats as the methodology I employed was somewhat different than Muller’s: I only looked at contributions from lawyers, I only recorded the number of contributions rather than the percentage dollar figures, and I looked at the top ten law firms in the country, plus some elite related institutions (Goldman Sachs etc.).
Still, the differences between 2016 and 2020 are immense, especially when you look at specific firms. What I found was that, in 2016, basically no lawyer at any top firm gave any money to Trump: 99% of the contributions at these firms went to the Clinton campaign. This was especially striking given that at least a couple of these top ten firms had and have reputations as Republican-leaning. In particular, look at the data for Kirkland the & Ellis, former home of Ken Starr and many other bigwig GOP lawyers:
Percentage of contributors to Barack Obama in 2012: 39.5%
Percentage of contributors to Hillary Clinton in 2016: 97.5%
Percentage of contributions to Joe Biden in 2020: 69.8%
Basically, three-fifths of the lawyers at Kirkland who contributed to the 2012 campaign gave to Romney, almost none gave to Trump four years later, and then magically, after four years of Trumpism becoming ever-more unambiguous, the percentage crept all the way back to pretty much exactly halfway between the 2012 and 2016 numbers. (Again, note the caveats above about how the data aren’t directly comparable, but they’re probably fairly close).
Let’s be clear here: Giving money to the Donald Trump campaign during the 2020 cycle was giving money to an increasingly open fascist cult of personality. And let me be even more frank: It would not only be perfectly legal, it would be absolutely the right thing to do for any law firm, or any other private employer, to summarily fire any employee, or de-equitize any partner, who gave money to Donald Trump. That the percentage of lawyers at fancy firms who are giving money to presidential campaigns who are giving that money to Trump has gone from around 1 in 100 in 2016 to 1 in 6 in 2020 is not a good sign. That nearly a third of the donating lawyers at a place like Kirkland were OK with doing this last year is appalling.
Tolerance of fascism is no virtue, and every legal attempt to destroy Donald Trump and the current incarnation of the Republican party is no vice.