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Jim Matheson and Vinson & Elkins – What’s The Connection?

International law firm Vinson & Elkins has been best known as the place where disgraced former U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales began his legal career, and as a legal firm connected to the Enron scandal. Vinson & Elkins may come back into the spotlight again, however, as the 2010 congressional campaign season enters full gear, bringing extra scrutiny to unethical connections between industry and members of Congress.

Searching through FEC disclosures, That’s My Congress has found that Vinson & Elkins partners made a rather concentrated burst of political contributions to Blue Dog Congressman Jim Matheson last year.

First, on May 13, 2009, Vinson & Elkins attorney Jeff Chapman made a contribution to Matheson’s 2010 re-election campaign. Then, eleven days later, all of a sudden, seven partners from Vinson & Elkins gave money to the Matheson campaign.

It’s against the law for companies to coordinate political contributions by their employees, but it seems that Vinson & Elkins made such coordinated donations to Jim Matheson last year. Why would the law firm (also a federally registered lobbying firm) do so? The lawyers of Vinson & Elkins are not constituents of Congress Matheson. Matheson represents the 2nd district of Utah, whereas the lawyers from Vinson & Elkins who donated to Matheson all live in Texas.

Who organized the coordinated donations from Vinson & Elkins? Did Jim Matheson or his staff know about what appears to be an illegal group of corporate donations? Given their need to organize campaign finance information, how could the staff of Matheson’s re-election campaign not be aware of what was going on?

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