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Support for presidential candidates at elite law firms in 2012 and 2016

Paul Campos writes:

Thought these data were extreme enough to be of general interest.

OK, before you click on the link, here’s the story: Campos looked up the presidential campaign contributions at 11 top law firms. (I’m not sure where his data came from; maybe the same source as here?) Guess what percentage of contributions went to Mitt Romney in 2012? What about Donald Trump in 2016?

Make your guesses, then click on the link above to find out the answer.

The numbers are indeed striking, and I have nothing to add—really there’s nothing I can say at all, given that no data or link have been supplied. I do, however, wonder what would happen if we took the people in the comments section at the above-linked post, and put them in the same room as the commenters at Marginal Revolution. Matter and anti-matter (or maybe it’s the other way around). I can’t even imagine.

P.S. Campos added a link to the data in his post.


  1. Guido Biele says:

    This link to the data was provided:
    (the word “here” in the second row)

  2. Jonathan (another one) says:

    I’m not sure why this is so surprising. Unlike Romney, Trump wasn’t actively soliciting donations in the same way. Romney has a lot of money, but he wasn’t arguing that he was self-financing his campaign. He held numerous fundraisers including the notorious one about people who don’t work for a living that cost him a lot of votes, if not the Presidency. There is also the issue that, in facing an incumbent, Romney needed a lot more help. Trump was facing the weakest Democratic ever. Finally, Clinton vastly outspent Trump, but I’m not sure Trump really had anything to spend money on…. He already got all the press coverage one normally spends to get. Finally, there are the outsider issues… since no one really thinks of Trump as an actual Republican, it’s unsurprising that people who fancy themselves Republican kingmakers would be cool on him.

  3. Suprrsuprizedguy says:

    I’m surprised. Trump is embroiled in so many lawsuits, I would have thought the lawyers would support him for his contribution to the industry, like restaurant owners supporting Taft.

  4. Sanford says:

    “The numbers are indeed striking, and I have nothing to add—really there’s nothing I can say at all, given that no data or link have been supplied.”

    well, what exactly is so “striking” about those numbers to you… if you are instantly skeptical of their source & “have nothing to add” ?

    there are endless mountains of studies/assertions/noise for one to ponder– this obscure one obviously caught your attention… seems you granted it at least “some” immediate credibility and it likely countered your casual assumptions about that topic…. thus, you found it “indeed striking”

  5. Andrew says:

    Jonathan, Sanford:

    It was not striking to me that the contributions in 2012 were split roughly evenly, with slightly more going to Obama, and it was not striking to me that vast majority of contributions in 2016 went to Clinton. But I was struck by how few went to Trump. Less than 1%! That surprised me. I didn’t think to guess before looking at the numbers, but maybe I would’ve guessed 10%, or 5%. Not 1%.

    Sanford: Why do you say I was “instantly skeptical of their source”? And it’s no mystery as to why this one caught my attention: it’s because Campos emailed to me. I don’t get that many emails of this sort.

    • Feng says:

      Do you think this is just a Trump thing? Look at the numbers for other GOP candidates. They are also extremely small.

      • Paul Campos says:

        Actually the numbers for the other GOP candidates are quite large, compared to the numbers for the GOP candidates who didn’t get the nomination in 2012. (7% v. 1.4% respectively). Trump received only 10% of the contributions to GOP candidates, even though he had the nomination wrapped up fairly early. In 2012 Romney received almost all the contributions that went to GOP candidates, and the GOP got nearly half the contributions.

        Trump raised 26% less money than Romney overall, so a 98% decline in contributions from a cohort of several thousand elite lawyers seems notable.

        • Feng says:

          Even Sanders got more than all GOP candidates combined. This is apparently not a Trump thing.

          • Paul Campos says:

            Sanders was the only other Dem candidate, realistically speaking. He didn’t get the nomination, and he received the same number of contributions, roughly speaking, as the GOP candidates who didn’t get their party’s nomination.

            Comparing 2012 to 2016, the support Trump didn’t receive is the massive outlier among all these numbers. That by itself explains the entire difference between contributions to Dems and contributions to Repubs in the two cycles.

    • Jonathan (another one) says:

      OK. Then I fall back on the first comment. In my (very limited) experience, no one gives to candidates spontaneously, at least not at this level of donation. They give because someone asks them. Trump just didn’t have anyone asking on his behalf, because he wasn’t raising money — he was running for President. I think every other candidates spends 70 percent of their time raising money and calls that part of running for President. The 1% of donations he got were those rare souls who donated sua sponte. (I hasten to add that I have managed to spend 61 years on earth and never donate 10 cents to any electoral campaign anywhere, even when it has cost me business directly. It is only by ignoring the blandishments of those trying to rope me in that I have some understanding of how this process works.)

      • Andrew says:


        Interesting point you make. It’s my impression that small-dollar donations are pretty much made spontaneously: someone sees some news about a candidate or hears a speech or goes to a rally and is motivated to give $20 or $50 or whatever. But it could well be that contributions from rich, well-connected people are mostly from personal solicitations. I hadn’t thought of that.

  6. Wonks Anonymous says:

    I looked up Trump’s campaign funds by source:
    #6 was lawyers/law firms, with $1,781,811.

    Compare that to Hillary:
    #3 with $39,546,759

    For some more details, Trump’s #1 was Retired with $33,058,465, while #2 was Real Estate with $4,510,113. Clinton’s #1 was Securities & Investment with $84,873,357, while #2 was Retired with $68,811,162.

  7. Sanford says:

    …you made directly contradictory statements –> “The numbers are indeed striking {+ I was struck by how few went to Trump}” + “I have nothing to add—really there’s nothing I can say at all”. Stating that you were struck/surprised by the Trump numbers is significant… and not ‘nothing at all’ to say. You also implied caution (skepticism) because links to the underlying study were unavailable.

    Seems rather coy. You obviously accepted the overall thrust of the study (or you would have ignored it… or just posted it without comment, as tidbit of interest), but you were surprised that elite lawyers were so anti-Trump.
    Next obvious question would be why you expected lawyers to be much less anti-Trump.

    No big deal — you are just making an informal blog post, but I was “struck” by the strong contradiction.

    • Andrew says:


      I don’t see the contradiction. Campos pointed me to the post saying that the data were “extreme enough to be of general interest,” i.e., striking. I said I had nothing to add, and I agreed that the data were striking; that is, I was adding nothing beyond Campos’s remark to me. And, sure, without seeing the data (that link wasn’t there in Campos’s original source), I was limited in what I could say. Finally, I was surprised that less then 1% of campaigns went to the Republican candidate in 2016, especially given that in the previous election the contributions were split close to evenly.

      I don’t understand what’s “coy” or “contradictory” about this: Campus pointe me to some numbers which were, on first glance, surprising, and indeed they surprised me, so I shared them with all of you, while noting that I was not sure what was the source of his data. I had nothing to add, so I didn’t add anything.

    • A says:

      Indignation feels good.

  8. M. Klaus says:

    Great point about the comment section vs Marginal Revolution. I would pay to attend a cocktail drink with both groups :)

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