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October 29, 2009 7:31 PM

Am Law 200 Lawyers Love Christie; Corzine...Not As Much

Posted by Brian Baxter

If recent comments in the press are any indication, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine knows Garden State residents have had a hard time warming up to him. The same might be said of Am Law 200 lawyers.

According to 2009 campaign finance records for next week's knock-down-drag-out general election, it's Corzine's Republican opponent, Chris Christie, who's feeling the love. The Am Law Daily reviewed data gleaned by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. The records show that Christie has received nearly double the amount of campaign contributions from lawyers that Corzine has.

Christie received approximately $398,096 in attorney contributions, including funds from 42 Am Law 200 firms. Corzine's coffers registered $214,245 in donations from lawyers, with 17 Am Law 200 firms making contributions.

In a state known for its pharmaceutical industry, the Democratic candidate Corzine is more popular with plaintiffs' firms. Seeger Weiss, known for its litigation battles with Merck over the controversial anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx, gave $6,600 to Corzine so far this year. New York's Weitz & Luxenberg and Houston's The Lanier Law Firm contributed $2,100 and $1,000, respectively.

On the Am Law 200 side, New Jersey's McCarter & English led the way for Corzine with $7,980 in contributions. That's followed by Sidley Austin's James Zirin chipping in with $3,400, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz's John Lynch with $2,000, Patton Boggs' Micah Green with $2,000, and four lawyers from Debevoise & Plimpton kicking in $1,630 collectively.

Topping the legal contributor chart for Christie was McDermott Will & Emery with $8,100 in donations, including $3,400 from partner and former Republican governor of Massachusetts William Weld. That's followed by several contributions from McCarter lawyers totaling $4,800, Cravath, Swaine & Moore with $4,000, Drinker Biddle & Reath with $2,700, and Saul Ewing and Epstein Becker & Green each with $2,500. (Outside The Am Law 200, mid-Atlantic firm Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard took top honors with $9,600 in Christie contributions.)

On an individual basis, Christie's top attorney contributors were Jones Day's Henry Klehm III, who donated $3,400; Wachtell's George Conway III, who also gave $3,400; and Bracewell & Giuliani's Kevin O'Connor, who contributed $2,400.

In reviewing the records, we were struck by one Christie contributor in particular: Fulbright & Jaworski partner Michael Battle, who donated $1,000 to the former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

Prior to joining Fulbright, Battle served as director of the executive office for U.S. Attorneys, where he personally informed seven former U.S. Attorneys in 2006 that they would be dismissed. In the ensuing scandal over the firings, which some believed were politically motivated, it emerged that Christie was on a short-list for dismissal but was later spared.

In private practice Battle also represented an Indiana-based orthopedic device manufacturer called Zimmer Holdings, which paid a hefty settlement in a controversial kickback probe by Christie's office. So it struck us as odd that Battle was inclined to support Christie.

We reached out to Battle to ask what it is about Corzine's challenger that prompted his contribution. Battle didn't respond to a request for comment. For now, we're still left guessing.

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