Feet in Both Camps
Nationally, most campaign contributions from lawyers go to Democrats. Florida's law firms bucked that trend last year.
Florida lawyers and firms were among the heaviest hitters in the most recent election. Greenberg Traurig, for example, was the fifth-biggest contributor in Florida, with $347,700 donated by its political action committees, employees and their families through Oct. 10. Akerman Senterfitt was the 10th-biggest donor statewide, with $196,554 through Oct. 10.
What was noteworthy about Florida lawyers' lavishes this time was the recipient -- at least in the race for governor. Attorneys, particularly trial lawyers, tend to be strong Democrats. In the 2006 cycle nationally, 70% of contributions from attorneys went to the Dems and 29% to the GOP. But in Florida's gubernatorial race between Charlie Crist (a lawyer) and Jim Davis (a lawyer), those percentages were reversed: Lawyers gave about 69% of the $1.8 million donated through Oct. 10 to Crist, the Republican.
Part of the appeal was Crist's running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a former state House member from Lee County. A trial lawyer with Morgan and Morgan, Florida's largest personal-injury firm, Kottkamp is outspoken against limits on negligence lawsuits, a top issue for the state's business lobby. Last year, the Florida Chamber of Commerce gave Kottkamp the lowest ranking of 84 House Republicans.
An even bigger and more obvious factor, however, is the GOP's dominance in Tallahassee. Florida's trial lawyers began to play in Republican primaries once the GOP cinched the Legislature so they wouldn't be shut out come general election time.