Robert Anderson

Associate Professor Pepperdine University School of Law

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06/11/2013

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Well done. How about government economists?

(Yes, I agree, you've done lots of work already. How about one of you readers?)

Eric, This is a great idea. I'm running it now and will have answers shortly!

FWIW, I'm married to a registered Democrat Federal Lawyer who voted for the McCain and Romney. Likely her first GOP votes evah, but you got to start somewhere.

This is a one sided analysis. Of course government employees are likely going to give more to the party that isn't opposed to a larger government. That's like being surprised to discover that the NRA gave all their PAC money to the GOP. Oh, shocking. This doesn't mean anything except to enforce the concept that people tend to give money to / vote for their interests.

Reading any more than that into this is facetious.

Being a government lawyer is a lame existence unless you have a completely deluded sense of mission that comes along with wearing the government "white hat". Any conservative government lawyer gets disillusioned quickly -- it's tough to swallow the bureaucratic nonsense if you aren't a true believer -- and they tend to leave. So yes, there is some self-selection going on, but it has to do with liberals' misplaced sense of mission. It's frightening that these liberal government lawyers see themselves not as dull bureaucrats but avenging angels for the great principles. But in the end they wield much less power than they realize. The real power is reserved for political appointees who aren't career civil servants. But don't tell the liberal lawyers this, it would rock their delusional world.

To second the point made by Benjamin (above), why would an active Republican work for the government when GOP policy since President Reagan has been (paraphrasing Grover Norquist) to shrink government small enough so it can be drowned in the bathtub? Of course we see lopsided political representation among government employees.

A second, ignored, aspect is the incumbency of President Obama in 2012. Since he's a pro-government politician, and since Gov. Romney missed no opportunity to pander to the anti-government fringe of his constituency, it makes perfect sense for any government employee to support "more of the same", i.e., open the checkbook for the President.

I appreciate the work involved in churning through the data. But the support for the thesis that "people tend to give money to / vote for their interests" is unsurprising. In the end the critical question - how high up the hierarchy did the policy direction go? - remains unanswered.

(For what it's worth, I don't find the analysis one-sided. Rather, I find it circumscribed by the data the author chooses to base it on.)

This info is more valuable if we can find out if it swings the other way when a Republican administration is expected to win a second term. It might indicate that government employees (in this case lawyers) believe that their contributions to the incoming party will get noticed or are expected or pushed by outside influences. And of course if it always holds true, regardless of the incoming party/presidency, well, then it might be very interesting to consider whether the president in power (and depending on party) was able to get its agenda through each agency and if not, why not.

If the direction of contributions changes with each changing administration/party (particularly in second terms where there is a higher expectation of re-election), it could indicate a belief among lawyers that they "should" contribute to the second term to keep their jobs.

And finally, if it is always slanted heavily towards the Democrats, it might suggest why Bush wanted to replace the DOJ attorneys for his own: to get his agenda pursued against resistance (and why perhaps Obama's is sailing through without so much as a phone call to DOJ). Hmm.

Great information. Thanks for taking the time. Pepperdine MBA alum.

The comments above suggest that there should be no surprise that those in government support those who are for big government. The question is how far will they go to make sure that big government stays in power. I think the recent scandals suggest pretty far.

Letitia,

Those are really valuable suggestions and would make the analysis stronger. It might be difficult because we'd have to go pretty far back to find a situation where a Republican was expected to win the presidency, and (other) things could have changed so much in the interim. Thanks for the helpful suggestion.

I think a good first test of Letitia's hypothesis is to look at contributions in 2004. It is not necessary or appropriate to limit the search to campaigns in which an incumbent Republican president was "expected to win" as long as the incumbent was not expected to lose.

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