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Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the law firm tentatively chosen by the state's new redistricting commission to provide legal advice on the federal Voting Rights Act, has given most of its campaign contributions to Democrats, a new compilation by found.

Maplight, a Berkeley-based database on campaign contributions at state and federal levels, released its study of the law firm's donations Wednesday, just one day before the California Citizens Redistricting Commission is to decide whether to finalize its $150,000 contract.

Gibson, Dunn was tentatively chosen last months after a Sacramento law and lobbying firm with strong Republican ties lost in a preliminary round of voting and then dropped out of the competition.

However, the contract was held up after it was revealed that Gibson, Dunn had made substantial campaign contributions and also was registered as a federal lobbying firm. Republican Party leaders then attacked its selection and that of Q2 Data and Research, a demographic consulting firm, as evidence of a pro-Democrat bias on the commission.

On Wednesday, Maplight provided more fuel for the debate by revealing that since 2003, Gibson, Dunn employees had given $29,700 to legislative candidates since 2003 -- a relatively modest amount -- and that nearly three-quarters went to Democrats. At the federal level, the firm and its employees have contributed $1.2 million to House and Senate candidates, 70 percent of it to Democrats.

Gibson, Dunn sought to allay fears of partisan bias by assigning two attorneys to the redistricting project, one Democrat and one Republican. Any election law changes affecting four California counties fall under the Voting Rights Act and are subject to Justice Department review and comply with the law is considered to be one of the commission's toughest hurdles.

Two ballot measures created the commission, giving it the decennial task that has been performed in the past by the Legislature, with the state Supreme Court stepping in when political deadlocks stopped action in the Capitol.

The 14-member commission -- five Democrats, five Republicans and four independents -- is to draw maps for 120 legislative seats, 53 congressional seats and four slots on the Board of Equalization to compensate for population and demographic changes in the 2010 census.

Tentative maps are due in June. The commission has scheduled dozens of hearings around the state this spring. Final maps are to be completed by August, but they would be subject to legal challenges as well as Department of Justice review. The new districts are to be in place for the 2012 elections.


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