Staunch Republicans for Ted Kennedy

This is a story we’ve seen before–the “staunch Republican” who turns out not to be. From the Chicago Sun Times, with the headline “GOP Lawyer Sold On Dems:”

After watching the top five Democratic candidates for president speak before a trial lawyers’ group Sunday, attorney Jim Ronca of Philadelphia, a staunch Republican, became certain of one thing: He is not going to vote Republican in the 2008 presidential election.
He will support the Democrats.
“I’m not only going to vote Democratic, I’m going to financially support the Democrats,” Ronca said after a luncheon forum of the American Association for Justice, featuring Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Joe Biden. “The Republicans in Washington are an embarrassment.”

It turns out, though, that Ronca is a member of one of the world’s smallest clubs: Staunch Republicans Who Donate to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Men’s News Daily reports:

So this “staunch Republican” is now going to financially support the Democrats? This seems an about face for a Republican, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately for the Sun-Times’ attempt to make Ronca seem the dyed-in-the-wool Republican, Mr. Ronca has a long, long history of being a Republican who financially supports Democrats. In fact, a quick review of his public donation record proves that he almost never gives to a Republican at all. Out of the 10 candidates he’s donated to, only two of them were Republicans… and one of those was Arlen Spector….

Ronca donated $500 to Ted Kennedy in 1995 and $2,000 to John Kerry in 2004. He gave $1,500 to Bob Casey’s successful run against Rick Santorum. Some “staunch Republican.”
It’s worse than that, too. The reporter, Jennifer Hunter, didn’t just take Ronca’s word for his political affiliation without researching his political contributions. The event she was covering was the annual convention of the “American Association for Justice,” which is the new name for the American Trial Lawyers’ Association (ATLA). ATLA, an association of plaintiffs’ lawyers, has long been one of the principal supporters of the Democratic Party. This is why the newly-named AAJ invited the Democratic Presidential candidates, not the Republicans, to speak at a lunch forum, and also invited Howard Dean to address another event at the convention. As for Jim Ronca himself, he is a well-known plaintiffs’ lawyer and a former President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers’ Association.
Now, it is possible for an ATLA bigwig to be a Republican. But the odds against it are long, just as it’s highly unlikely that an officer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will turn out to be a member of the GOP. For a reporter to cover this event and not understand that she was swimming in a sea of Democrats, so that Ronca’s claim to be a “staunch Republican” needed verification, was singularly obtuse.
I’ve written to Ms. Hunter for an explanation of how this deception occurred, and will publish any response I receive.
UPDATE: The reader who alerted us to this story adds:

I’ve been suspicious of these types of stories (I see two or three a year) since a college friend of mine showed up in one in a 1996 Dayton Daily News article that characterized him as a “lifelong Republican” who was ditching Dole to support Clinton. My friend was a colleague from my days as a Page in the Ohio Senate, a staffer for the Minority (Democrat) Caucus, and president of the College Donks at one of the largest universities in the country. I’m pretty sure he worked later as a lobbyist for the Teamsters.

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