From the Fact Check Desk: Was President Obama NOT the Preferred Candidate of the Trial Lawyers?

Before today’s White House briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced a program of $25 million in grants for demonstration programs to reduce the number of medical malpractice lawsuits. (Read more about that from my ABC News colleague Karen Travers HERE .)

Asking about the relative modesty of funds for the demonstration programs, my colleague, NBC’s Chuck Todd, asked, “how does somebody not interpret this as saying, ‘Well, you know what? Trial lawyers are a huge interest group of the Democratic Party, so that's why they're going slowly’?” “Let me step in for one second,” Gibbs said. “I think you can recall from the presidential campaign, I don't recall us being the preferred candidate of the trial lawyers that you mentioned.”

“Yes you were,” I said. “You got more money than any other candidate when it came to trial lawyers.” Gibbs then qualified his remarks to only mean the primary.

“I'd check your FEC figures on the primary,” he said.

“Check out opensecrets.org,” I said, referring to the excellent website of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.

“Happy to do it,” Gibbs said.

I called Douglas Weber, a Senior Researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. He said there’s no accurate way to distinguish trial lawyers from lawyers in general.

In the “presidential campaign” to which Gibbs referred, President Obama received $43,071,129 from lawyers and law firms.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., received $9,930,296 from lawyers and law firms.

Okay, but he quickly clarified that he’d meant the Democratic primary, when fellow trial lawyer and former Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, was in the race and was clearly the favorite of many top trial lawyers.

Edwards collected $7,588,701 from lawyers and law firms.

By January 30, the day Edwards dropped out of the race, “the Obama presidential campaign had raised $11,650,779 from lawyers and law firms,” Webber emails me.

Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, dropped out of the race on June 7, 2008 . She raised $15,497,787 from lawyers and law firms for her campaign.

By June 7, the Obama campaign had raised $19,133,487 from lawyers and law firms.

-jpt

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