Gun Control: Campaign Finance and ROI

August 4th, 2006 9:58 AM

Previously, we examined how gun-rights voting records correlate with campaign contributions from lawyers and law firms during the 2004 election cycle.[1] This bias appears to remain in force for the 2006 cycle.

According to the most recent Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) data, lawyers have retaken first place as the largest industry donor at $68,529,030, having dropped to second in the 2004 election after holding first place since the CRP began collecting campaign contribution data. Recent lawyer/law firm contributions heavily favor Democrats ($47,577,820 to Republicans’ $20,786,462), though the percentage of total contributions dropped from 74.5% in 2004 to 69.4% at present. Historically, this industry group has averaged 72.0% Democrat in its campaign contributions, varying between 68.9% and 74.5% from 1990–2006, thus the 2004/2006 variation does not indicate some new trend.[2]

Example From Recent House Vote

House Amendment 1156 to House bill H.R. 5672, appropriations for “Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies,”[3] reduces enforcement power of federal trigger lock regulations by prohibiting “funds in the bill from being used to enforce a trigger lock on guns provision in law.”[4]

Trigger locks are part of an overall strategy to legislate how people are to safely store firearms in the home. When Lott studied the effect of safe storage laws, including mandatory locking of firearms in the home, he found these laws to have no positive impact on accidental shooting deaths, suicide, or violent crime rates.[5] The Centers for Disease Control also concluded that research hadn’t revealed any significant value in such laws.[6] When a research council of the National Academy of Sciences studied these laws, their conclusion was corroborative:

In general, we find that the scientific bases for understanding the impact of different technologies on the rates of injury is sorely lacking. The existing research outlines a number of interesting hypotheses, but, in the end, the extent to which different technologies affect injury remains unknown.[7]


Trigger locks increase a firearm’s cost, negatively influencing buying decisions for economically disadvantaged homeowners who want to protect their family. This reduces demand, a primary goal for gun controllers.

Voting on Amendment 1156 split about 80% along party lines: of those voting Aye, 81.7% were Republican and 80.1% of the Noes were Democrat.[8] Examining lawyer/law firm campaign contributions for the 2006 election cycle, we find that No voters averaged $48,717 in lawyer contributions, 56% more than the Ayes average of $31,232. Overall, Democrats received an average of $49,925, 70% more than Republicans’ $29,266. Separating Ayes and Noes by party, Democrats voting No averaged 5.1% more than their Aye counterparts, while Republicans voting No averaged 44.1% more lawyer contributions. When correlated against the NRA candidate grading system, we find that representatives rated “F” (consistent anti-gun voting) received an average of $53,374, 72% more than those rated “A” (consistently pro-gun).[9]

Example From Recent Senate Vote

In the Senate, an amendment was added to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2007, “To prohibit the confiscation of a firearm during an emergency or major disaster if the possession of such firearm is not prohibited under Federal or State law.” The intention of this amendment is to avoid another mass confiscation of legal firearms owned by law-abiding citizens, leaving them unable to defend their property against violent predators, as happened after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.[10]

The 16 senators who voted Nay were all Democrat.[11] From 2001-2006, they averaged $818,368 in campaign contributions from lawyers/law firms, 52.5% more than those voting Yea ($536,526). Overall, Democrats averaged $860,089, 133% more than the Republican average of $368,445. When correlated against the NRA grades, we find that senators rated “F” received an average of $1,043,179, 111% more than those rated “A.”[12]

What’s In It for Attorneys?

Investing in congressional candidates to maintain a favorable legal environment for further high-return litigation is partly historical and partly a long-term game plan. The legal profession received billions of dollars in contingency fees from the tobacco litigation of the 1990s, in which manufacturers were held liable for the deliberate actions of consumers. One Texas attorney was awarded $260 million for his part in the tobacco settlement in 1999.[13] A study by the Cato Institute found that:

Private attorneys in Texas, Mississippi and Florida made out like bandits, fleecing tobacco companies, smokers and taxpayers for $8.2 billion in legal fees – billions more than the lawyers themselves had demanded![14]


After the tobacco settlement, lawyers and law firms tripled the amount of total political contributions to federal candidates and political parties, from $59 million in 1998 election cycle to over $182 million in 2004.[15]

Recently-released papers from the Clinton Presidential Library confirm this tobacco-firearms litigation link. A Los Angeles Times article from October 1998 notes:

New Orleans is expected to file a massive product liability and negligence lawsuit against major handgun makers today, the opening salvo in a campaign against the gun industry by an alliance of anti-tobacco attorneys and local governments.

The suit, which will be announced by New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, will name 10 manufacturers, including five Southern California firms that make the cheap handguns known as Saturday night specials, said John Coale, a Washington attorney who is part of a nationwide consortium of law firms that has filed two dozen class-action suits against tobacco companies.[16]


The article goes on to describe this consortium and name some of its players:

New Orleans, Coale added, “will be the first of many cities” to sue in the next few months with the help of the Castano group, a nationwide consortium of law firms, and the National Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. The other cities were not identified.

“We’re going to do to this what we did to tobacco,” he said. “It’s going to be a very large war.”

The Castano group, named for the lead plaintiff in one anti-tobacco case, has filed class-action suits against cigarette makers on behalf of millions of allegedly addicted smokers. The cases are pending in various states.[17]


The “National Center to Prevent Handgun Violence” became the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose Legal Action Project page documents their assistance with the New Orleans and other municipal lawsuits:

The Legal Action Project has helped governments across the nation bring a series of groundbreaking lawsuits against the gun industry. In October 1998, the City of New Orleans became the first government to file such a suit. Since then, dozens of other cities and counties, as well as one state, have filed similar actions. These governments seek to recover the immense costs they have incurred because of the defendants’ wrongdoing, and to obtain injunctive relief to prevent future harm. The total number of governments that have brought suits is 33. The Legal Action Project represents 25 of these government entities, and has provided assistance to the others.[18]


By demonizing and politically ostracizing the next consumer product, thereby making it vulnerable to a “very large [legal] war,” this predatory cycle of blaming some inanimate object instead of enforcing personal responsibility prepares the ground for yet another cycle of litigation as lawyers set their sights on the next target, and the next, all while enriching themselves with fat contingency fees, which in turn gives them additional seed money to buy more influence in Washington, D.C. No wonder they spend so much money on campaign contributions!


Lawyers contribute primarily to candidates who vote against gun rights. Most of this money ends up in the pockets of Democrats, who exhibit a heavy bias against gun rights. Interestingly enough, the Democrat party is the one that claims to represent the little guy, while a special interest group comprised of economically-elite professionals encourages Democrats to pass more laws limiting the right of self-defense for people who cannot afford private security guards. It’s time for those who believe in traditional Democrat values to take a closer look at their party.

[1] Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: Rebuttal to Michael Barnes, Brady Campaign, ChronWatch, August 5, 2005.

[2] Open Secrets, Lawyers/Law Firms: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics.

[3] The Library of Congress: Thomas, H.R. 5672 for the 109th Congress.

[5] John Lott, Jr., The Bias Against Guns, Regnery Publishing, 2003, page 146-149.

[6] Findings from the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws, Centers for Disease Control, October 3, 2003.

[7] Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, Carol V. Petrie, et al, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, Committee on Law and Justice, National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences, Copyright 2005, page 219.

[8] Clerk of the House of Representative, Final Vote Results for Roll Call 343, June 28, 2006.

[9] Collated from individual Top Industries pages on Open Secrets. Email request for excel spreadsheet.

[10] Reuters, Senate votes to bar emergency gun confiscation, Boston Globe, July 13, 2006.

[11] Senate Bill Clerk, U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress – 2nd Session, July 13, 2006.

[12] Collated from individual Top Industries pages on Open Secrets. Email request for excel spreadsheet.

[13] John R. Butler, Dan Morales and Marc Murr Have Some Explaining to Do to All Texans, Houston Chronicle, May 7, 1999.

[14] Robert Levy, The Great Tobacco Robbery: Lawyers Grab Billions, Cato Institute, March 6, 1999.

[15] Open Secrets, Lawyers/Law Firms: Long-Term Contribution Trends, Center for Responsive Politics.

[16] Myron Levin, New Orleans Is Expected to Sue Gun Manufacturers, Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1998. Collected from Clinton Presidential Library by Judicial Watch, page 2.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, City Lawsuits, The Legal Action Project.