THE CHEERFUL GIVER

A BUSINESSMAN WITH A CORNER ON PUBLISHING COURT DOCUMENTS WAS ALSO A MASTER OF POLITICAL DONATIONS

Happy is the man who rules his market, especially one as lucrative as Vance Opperman's. As president of West Publishing, the quasi-official publisher of court decisions, he has earned a fortune. And so when his empire was threatened in 1994 by potential competition from, of all places, the Justice Department, he called in a little help from his friends in Washington.

Fortunately for him, he had a lot of those. A major Democratic Party fund raiser, who with his father gave $195,000 in 1992-94, Opperman enjoyed a decades-old friendship with Al Gore and served as campaign-finance co-chairman for California Senator Dianne...

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