Peter Lattman reports:

During the 2004 election, the erstwhile trial lawyer John Edwards had a lock on the legal community, particularly the plaintiffs’ bar, which poured money into his campaign. This time around, lawyers are spreading the love. The NYT reports this morning that Clinton, Obama and Biden lawyers all are gaining in lawyers-dollars market share. ... Through the first two quarters of this year, Edwards had received $6.5 million from lawyers, compared with $6.3 million for Clinton and $5.5 million for Obama. A potential problem for Edwards is that he heavily relies on JDs for dough, while the others have a more diverse fundraising base.

The same pattern of reliance on the plaintiff bar was true back in 2004, as Walter Olson observed:

What scares the daylights out of his business adversaries isn't just that Mr. Edwards is a seasoned trial lawyer who decided to switch careers, in the manner of Orrin Hatch, Ernest Hollings and others. It's that from day one he's been at pains to construct a tightly organized fund-raising and electoral machine whose dominant figures, with scarcely a known exception, are wealthy plaintiff's lawyers like himself. In fact, most of his key backers are drawn from the tiny handful of tort lawyers even more successful than he, sometimes by orders of magnitude.

One hopes the Edwards '08 campaign is being a bit more careful about who it takes money from. You may recall that back in 2003 the ACU charged that the Edwards '04 campaign had taken a number of questionable donations, alleging that:

Published reports from the Center for Individual Freedom's website state that twenty (20) persons identified as paralegals and nine (9) listed as legal assistants employed by Turner & Associates PA in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed $2,000 each to the Edwards campaign after receiving assurances that their contributions would be reimbursed. From this law firm alone, more than $58,000 in suspicious contributions to the Edwards campaign were received, yet only $10,000 was reported by the Edwards campaign as being returned to the donors from that firm. See www.cfif.org, John Edwards: An Oops for the Trial Lawyers' Presidential Candidate¸ posted April 24, 2003. See also "What John Edwards Money Said" by John Samples, www.cato.org, posted on the website of the Cato Institute on May 9, 2003. ...

The Hill newspaper reported on May 7, 2003 that Edwards for President campaign documents filed of record with the FEC reveal a pattern of illegal contributions by low-level employees of law firms whose principals are engaged in contributing to and fundraising for the Edwards for President committee.

According to The Hill, "Donations to Edwards Questioned", by Sam Dealy, the contributions from low-level employees contributing at the maximum $2,000 level arrived on the same day along with contributions from the partners and attorneys of the firms employing the individual donors. Further, the FEC records reflect that contributions from spouses and other family members were also made on the same dates as those from the low-level employees of the law firms. No conduit reports were filed by the law firms which employ the donor-employees.

In 2006, CNN reported that:

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign and a donor were fined Thursday for soliciting and accepting illegal contributions. The Federal Election Commission also cited other violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act. Fines totaled $59,500.

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