Missouri law firm political action committees continue to hedge their bets on federal candidates as the Nov. 8 election approaches.
As of Aug. 9, the six PACs associated with large Missouri law firms have raised a total of more than $450,000 for this election cycle so far and more than $400,000 in total expenses, according to Missouri Lawyers Media calculations informed by OpenSecrets, a site that tracks political spending and fundraising.
This includes PACs for Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner; Husch Blackwell; Lathrop GPM; Polsinelli; Shook, Hardy & Bacon; and Thompson Coburn. Other large law firms, such as Armstrong Teasdale, Spencer Fane and Stinson, are not operating PACs in the 2022 election cycle.
Lowell Pearson of Husch Blackwell advises clients who run PACs and other campaign finance matters at the state and federal level. He said PACs for any business have an interest in connecting with candidates as well as their clients via donations and other political activities.
“It’s to protect the interests of the clients and the law firm,” Pearson said.
Clients inclined to ask their law firm to support a certain candidate or cause can include any business with interests in Jefferson City or Washington, D.C. This can include encouraging lawyers at a firm to attend a campaign event at their business location, or to donate to their law firm’s PAC to support client interests.
It’s common for PAC donations to sway with the majority party, Pearson said. In 2016, Missouri’s law firm PACs each directed at least 60 percent of their spending to Republican candidates. Stinson’s PAC also still existed and supported only Republican candidates that year with more than $8,500 in contributions.
Because of the current Democratic hold on Congress and the executive branch, high-profile Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York are likely to receive the largest donations, Pearson said. So far, most law firm PACs are leaning blue or haven’t donated enough to determine a political leaning in the 2022 election cycle so far.
Pearson said that it’s common for PACs to funnel donations based on their clients’ requests — and who they anticipate will gain control of U.S. Congress after ballots are counted.
“It’s not exactly clear who’s going to control Congress after November 8,” Pearson said.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
BCLP’s PAC has donated $5,000 so far, with 70 percent of that going to Democratic candidates. In contrast, 61 percent of the PAC’s money went to Republicans in 2016.
The PAC contributed $1,000 to U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, and another $500 went to U.S. Rep Nikema Williams, a Democrat in Georgia. For the U.S. Senate, BCLP has sent $1,000 to Schumer and Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia, both Democrats.
Donations to Republicans include $1,000 to Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican in Illinois, and $500 to Republican Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri’s 2nd District.
Husch Blackwell’s PAC is the biggest spender so far, throwing most of its $92,500 to Democratic candidates. In 2016, the PAC showered 60 percent of its spending on Republicans.
It also has put the largest proportion of money into Missouri candidates. Husch Blackwell has spent $7,000 on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri’s 5th District). It also sent $5,000 to Republican Reps. Jason Smith of Missouri’s 8th District and $2,500 each to Wagner and Reps. Sam Graves of Missouri 6th District and Blaine Luetkemeyer of Missouri’s 3rd District.
Husch Blackwell also has sent $1,000 each to two out-of-state candidates, Rep. Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington.
Pearson, the Husch PAC’s longtime treasurer, declined to comment on its individual strategy.
Lathrop’s PAC has raised $5,000 and spent $642, none of which was reported to be on candidates or other causes.
In 2016, Lathrop spent 77 percent of its funds on Republican candidates.
Polsinelli operates the sole PAC leaning red, with 52 percent of its $86,000 in donations so far going to Republican candidates at the federal level.
Its largest contributions, however, went to Democrats in high places. It spent the most on Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, who each received $5,000.
Republican Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming (who recently lost the nomination for re-election) and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky each received $3,500, as did Sharice Davids, a Kansas Democrat.
Six more out-of-state Republicans and three Democrats received $2,500 each.
Out of 33 total candidates across at least 22 states, Polsinelli doled out one of its smallest donations, $1,000, to Smith’s race in Missouri’s 8th District.
Polsinelli spent about 61 percent on Republican causes in 2016.
Thompson Coburn’s PAC has donated $89,750, with 58 percent of its money going to Democrats.
It shed $6,500 on just one Missouri candidate, Wagner, a Republican, out of the total 24 candidates across 13 states that Thompson Coburn has sprinkled with donations. Thompson Coburn spent the most ($9,000) on Utah Congressman Blake Moore, a Republican.
“Our Firm maintains a bipartisan PAC that donates to candidates of both parties,” the firm wrote in an Aug. 25 statement. “We also encourage our employees to engage in civic matters however they choose — through voting, volunteering, making donations, or otherwise.”
Shook, Hardy & Bacon
Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s PAC has spent $2,000 on David’s Democratic race in Kansas and hasn’t actively raised money this year as of June 30. In 2016, it contributed to only Republicans.