Coakley cashes in at the bar

Lawyering Up
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 4, 2009


It's no surprise that Martha Coakley has raised much of her money for her US Senate campaign from lawyers — that has been her professional and social circle for pretty much her entire adult life. So, we won't feign shock at the long list of attorneys in private practice, prosecutors' offices, academia, the corporate world, and lobbying firms that populate Coakley's campaign-finance report.

What we will do is take a peek at which big Massachusetts law firms have been the most helpful to Coakley's cause. After all, these firms are known to be mighty competitive. So which one now owns the biggest piece of the potential senator?

The winner, by Boston Phoenix count (using the required employment identification on federal campaign-finance reports), is Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr (WilmerHale). We found more than $100,000 worth of contributions from that one firm — particularly striking, given that its attorneys have rarely ponied up for Coakley before. A search of the state database found only 20 previous contributions, totaling $6300.

Next comes Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, whose attorneys are typically more active in funding state Democrats — including Coakley. That includes the firm's chairman, Robert Popeo, who has contributed to her annually. Former AG Francis X. Bellotti, who is of counsel at Mintz Levin, is also a long-time Coakley supporter — in fact, he tells the Phoenix he committed to supporting her eight months ago, well before Ted Kennedy passed away. The third-biggest giver is Goodwin Procter, where Coakley once worked.

Sometimes these firms find themselves across the table from Coakley — as when Popeo represented Aggregate Industries, one of the Big Dig culprits. But there's nothing untoward about their contributing to the AG, says campaign spokesperson Alex Zaroulis. "[Coakley] has been practicing law in Massachusetts for some 30 years," she says. "It would be surprising if she didn't have strong support from the legal community."

Bellotti says that it's natural for area attorneys to back Coakley, who many know personally. He also suggests that the main alternative, Michael Capuano, is less well-known in legal circles and is considered too liberal for many of the high-earning attorneys — particularly those at Boston's stodgier white-shoe firms.

One of the area's largest firms, Ropes & Gray, doesn't even crack the top 10 in Coakley support. Also a bit of a surprise is the relatively low ranking of Bingham McCutchen — employer of both Coakley's campaign co-chair Ralph Martin and her campaign finance co-chair Beth Boland. That firm was, however, one of three (along with Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, and Nixon Peabody) to contribute through a political-action committee.

Meanwhile, a couple of much smaller firms make the list, thanks to its partners maxing out at the $2400 individual-contribution limit. That includes Cooley Manion Jones, home to former AG — and Coakley's former boss — Tom Reilly.

The firms listed below contributed nearly $500,000 — or about one of every eight dollars collected by Coakley's campaign.

Total contributions to Martha Coakley for Senate, from members of each firm and the firm's political-action committee.

WilmerHale $110,475
Mintz Levin $91,635
Goodwin Proctor $61,750
Nixon Peabody $46,332
Thornton & Naumes $38,600
Bingham McCutchen $34,600
Edwards Angell $30,725
Foley Hoag $25,150
Cooley Manion Jones $21,350
Burns & Levinson $18,875
Ropes & Gray $14,325
Brown Rudnick $11,185
Sugarman & Sugarman $10,725

Source: Boston Phoenix, from campaign-finance reports

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Francis Bellotti, US Senate, Nation,  More more >
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