Does your defense attorney give money to the prosecutor?

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett is an elected official, and elected officials have to raise money in order to win elections. County judges also have to raise money in order to beat their opponents. Much of that money comes from local attorneys, as HBO talk show host John Oliver recently highlighted.

The question is, how does this affect the outcome of a court case? Do judges and district attorneys grant special treatment to attorneys that donate to their campaigns? Do they treat attorneys who donate to their opponents harshly?

Newly elected Sedgwick County District Court judge Seth Rundle didn’t want anyone to have these questions floating around in their minds, so he opted to decline donations from attorneys. However, District Attorney Bennett and most judges in Sedgwick County do take money from local attorneys.

In Marc Bennett’s 2012 election, he was able to defeat his opponent Kevin O’Connor and he raised about $96,000 in campaign funds.

The following is a list of campaign contributions to Marc Bennett’s campaign, from local attorneys. Being on this list does not mean that these attorneys have done anything wrong. Attorneys donating money to such campaigns is common practice and perfectly legal, and may be done for a variety of perfectly innocent reasons.

We must also note that some of the attorneys listed may not practice criminal law and would therefore not be bringing cases that the district attorney would try.

Marc Bennett’s campaign finance report

Again, it is important to stress that the attorneys who donate money to district attorneys and judges may do so for a variety of reasons, ranging from political ideology, to opinions of competence, or even something as innocent as being old friends from law school. At the end of the day, it is up to the candidate running for office to determine whom they accept donations from, and whether or not to take steps to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We have left a message with Marc Bennett’s office asking for comment on this story and will include any response the district attorney provides.

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