To contribute or not to contribute--that is the question.
The 2012 presidential race is in full swing, and dozens of local and state positions are currently up for grabs. As the races heat up, you will undoubtedly grapple with the issues surrounding political donations.
Even though you are an attorney, campaign contributions are your constitutional right. But should you exercise that right? Or abstain in favor of protecting your reputation and practice?
Whether or not you donate to a local official or national candidate is ultimately up to you. But an attorney's campaign contributions don't come without problems.
Contributions can lead to a conflict of interest with past, current and future clients. Can you vote for an attorney general who wants to lessen the restrictions on shareholder suits? Sure. But a donation might end any future ability to represent companies.
Even if no conflict exists, political donations can create the appearance of impropriety. Take, for example, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. Groups of attorneys from across the country have donated thousands to his re-election campaign. The problem? They're the same lawyers bidding to represent Missouri in a lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline.
The more local you donate, the more it appears as though you are trying to influence politicians. To avoid such accusations, you may be ethically required to abstain from representing any local public entities.
And of course, an attorney's campaign contributions may simply cause him to lose clients. Donations are public information, and a prospective client may find it when searching Google. Some people won't want to work with a lawyer who supported controversial propositions or candidates.
So before you make a political donation this election cycle, consider the implications of your actions.
- State AGs rake in trial lawyer campaign cash, dole out sweetheart contracts (Washington Examiner)
- Since She's Been Gone: O'Connor's Opinion of Citizen's United (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Should Judges be Members of All-White Country Clubs? (FindLaw's Strategist)