For-profit

Elias Law Group

Location:

Washington, DC

Formation:

2021

President:

Marc Elias

Type:

Democratic-aligned law firm

The Elias Law Group is the law firm of Marc Elias, the former long-standing leader of the political law practice at Perkins Coie, a major law firm that serves Democratic politicians. In August 2021, Elias left Perkins Coie with ten partners and three counsels to establish the Elias Law Group to focus on “electing Democrats, supporting voting rights, and helping progressives make change.” While Perkis Coie is based in Seattle, the Ellis Law Group is based in Washington, D.C. [1][2]

Perkins Coie

Perkins Coie is a Seattle-based law firm of more than 1,000 lawyers. Founded in 1912, Perkins Coie received an important early boost in business when William Boeing, founder of what is today known as the Boeing Company, selected Perkins Coie to represent his growing aircraft construction enterprise. Boeing is still a client, as are Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other major corporations. The firm’s total annual revenue is nearly $800 million. Attorney John Devaney became the firm-wide managing partner (de facto CEO) on January 1, 2015. [3]

Prior to founding Elias Law Group, Marc Elias headed Perkins Coie’s political law practice. [4]

Political Law Practice

The Perkins Coie political law practice was begun in 1980 by attorney Robert Bauer, and prior to the departure of Marc Elias, the firm now claimed it was the “dominant practice in the field” and largest in the nation, with 40 lawyers. [5] Perkins Coie represents left-of-center political clients, and is the primary counsel for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and many other large Democratic or left-leaning political organizations. The political law group has also represented a large collection of Democratic presidential candidates, governors, and members of Congress; FEC records show $26,062,007 total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses during the 2016 election cycle (January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2016) to Perkins Coie from all political sources. [6]

Political law group founder Robert Bauer was the chair of political law practice until late 2009, until he was replaced by Marc Elias. Bauer was then named the White House Counsel for President Barack Obama, a position he held through July 2011. As part of his leadership at the political law group he was the general counsel for both of the Obama for America presidential campaigns (2008 and 2012), and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). He returned to Perkins Coie in late 2011, following his work as White House Counsel, and left full time work at the firm in May of 2018 to teach law at New York University. [7]

George Soros Lawsuits

Billionaire left-wing donor George Soros gave $5 million to Perkins Coie sometime before 2016 so political law group chair Marc Elias could challenge what left-wing activists allege to be restrictions that deter Democrats and left-wing constituencies from voting. Some of the laws the Soros funding has been used to challenge include photo identification requirements at polling places, limitations on early voting, and regulations on the handling of and access to absentee ballots. Cases have been opened in Arizona, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, and North Dakota. [8]

Political Clients

As of 2018, the two most recent Democratic nominees for President of the United States were clients of Perkins Coie. FEC records show $1,095,837 total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses during 2016 election cycle from Obama for America — President Barack Obama’s campaign committee — to Perkins Coie,[9] while FEC records show $5,631,421 total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses during 2016 election cycle from the Hillary for America committee. [10]

Major Democratic-aligned super PACs also retain Perkins Coie. In the 2016 cycle, the firm received $442,811 total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses from House Majority PAC,[11] $474,980 from Senate Majority PAC,[12] and $1,428,655 from Priorities USA (PAC). [13]

Marc Elias

Mark Elias was the general counsel for both the Hillary Clinton 2016 and John Kerry 2004 presidential campaigns. The firm’s major Democratic and high profile left-leaning institutional clients were his major area of responsibility, including the Democratic Governors Association, Democratic National Committee (DNC)Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC)Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC)House Majority PACSenate Majority PACPriorities USA (PAC), and EMILY’s List. He is also on the board of directors for Democratic-aligned Super PAC Priorities USA. [14]

2020 Election and Voting Laws

During the run-up to the 2020 election, Elias worked with Democratic groups to support state laws that expanded voting access. After the election, Elias and his political law practice at Perkis Colie challenged lawsuits levied by President Donald Trump to contest the results of the election, winning 64 lawsuits in total against the Trump campaign, and losing one. Elias’s public profile increased considerably during this time, and by April 2021 he had amassed half a million Twitter followers. [15]

In early 2021, Elias brought lawsuits in Georgia and Iowa challenging voting laws passed by Republican state legislatures. The Georgia suit was backed by Black Voters Matter Fund, Rise Inc., and the New Georgia Project. [16]

Russia Dossier

Working on behalf of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in April 2016, Marc Elias hired investigative firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The firm hired Christopher Steele, a former British spy with extensive experience in Russia. Steele produced a series of memos, collectively and popularly referred to as a “dossier,” alleging numerous conspiracies involving collusion between persons associated with the Russian government’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, claiming malfeasance by Donald Trump himself, and alleging the existence of blackmail information Russian intelligence might have over Trump. [17]

The Clinton campaign did not make the dossier public during the election. The most sensational allegations, particularly those implicating Donald Trump personally, had not been verified as of late 2017 and – according to a Washington Post analysis – “may never be [verifiable].” [18]

Several participants from the Democratic side and Steele have asserted the Clinton team was not aware of the work Steele and Fusion GPS were doing for them, and that Steele did not know who was paying for the research. The only exception appeared to be Marc Elias, who was made aware of the progress of the work he was paying for on behalf of his clients. Perkins Coie, on behalf of the DNC and Clinton campaign, ended the project around the time of the election. [19][20]

In interviews with Congressional Intelligence Committee investigators shortly after the dossier became public, but before its funding source was publicly demonstrated, both Clinton campaign chair John Podesta and former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) denied any connection between the dossier and the DNC or the Clinton campaign. Sources told CNN that Elias was seated with Podesta during the interview listening to Podesta’s testimony in his role as Clinton campaign counsel and not as a witness himself. [21]

Campaign Finance Regulation

Elias has been a major contributor to expanding the ability of donors to give money to federal political causes, leading to charges of hypocrisy against him specifically, and his clients generally, from left-of-center critics.

“Though Democratic candidates often call for campaign finance reform on the campaign trail, they pay Elias and his law firm to deregulate money in politics behind the scenes, through Federal Election Commission proceedings, litigation, legislation drafting and aggressive campaign lawyering,” said a representative of Common Cause, a left wing advocacy organization, in late 2018. [22]

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision striking down certain federal campaign finance restrictions, Elias appealed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for an administrative ruling that allowed for the creation of so-called “super PACs” – political committees that can accepted unlimited contributions. He has since helped Democratic organizations and candidates establish and manage these committees. [23]

In 2014, Elias helped Republican then-Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) increase the maximum allowable annual contribution from an individual to a political party committee from $97,400 to at least $777,600 (and possibly more). The change was inserted as a rider on a massive $1.1 trillion federal spending bill that was approved during the lame-duck session of Congress following the 2014 mid-term election. [24]

A lobbyist for Public Citizen, a liberal political advocacy organization founded by Green Party candidate and left-wing activist Ralph Nader, has complained that Elias has been “very effective in doing a great deal of damage to our campaign finance laws” and “instrumental in tearing down the laws that are trying to level the playing field.” [25]

2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate Recount

Marc Elias represented candidate Al Franken (D) in a recount of the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. Initial counts shortly after polling had closed showed Franken trailing incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman by 215 votes out of 2.9 million cast, triggering a mandatory recount. The recount resulted in Franken winning by just 312 votes. The Perkins Coie firm charged $3.6 million for its work on the recount, prompting Franken to joke that he had paid for the “Franken Wing of the Perkins Coie law office.” [26]

References

  1. Murray, Stephanie. “Dems ramp up budget pressure.” Politico. August 23, 2021. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.politico.com/newsletters/weekly-score/2021/08/23/dems-ramp-up-budget-pressure-797296. ^
  2. “Perkins Coie and its Political Law Group Announce the Formation of the Independent Firm Elias Law Group LLC.” Perkin Coie. August 22, 2021. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/news-insights/perkins-coie-and-its-political-law-group-announce-the-formation-of-the-independent-firm-elias-law-group-llp.html. ^
  3. Parnell, David J. “John Devaney Of Perkins Coie, On Political Law, Collaboration And Democracy In Firm Management.” Forbes. September 5, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidparnell/2017/09/05/john-devaney-perkins-coie-political-law-collaboration-democracy-firm-management/?sh=1f42362f3fb8. ^
  4. “Perkins Coie and its Political Law Group Announce the Formation of the Independent Firm Elias Law Group LLC.” Perkin Coie. August 22, 2021. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/news-insights/perkins-coie-and-its-political-law-group-announce-the-formation-of-the-independent-firm-elias-law-group-llp.html. ^
  5. “Bob Bauer Leaving Perkins Coie After More than 35 Years.” Perkins Coie. May 15, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/news-insights/bob-bauer-leaving-perkins-coie-after-more-than-35-years.html. ^
  6. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?data_type=processed&recipient_name=perkins+coie&two_year_transaction_period=2016&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  7. “Bob Bauer Leaving Perkins Coie After More than 35 Years.” Perkins Coie. May 15, 2018. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/news-insights/bob-bauer-leaving-perkins-coie-after-more-than-35-years.html. ^
  8. Barnes, Robert. “The crusade of a Democratic superlawyer with a multimillion-dollar backing, Washington Post. August 7, 2016. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/the-crusade-of-a-democratic-super-lawyer-with-multimillion-dollar-backing/2016/08/07/2c1b408c-5a54-11e6-9767-f6c947fd0cb8_story.html?utm_term=.34741f1e7973. ^
  9. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?data_type=processed&committee_id=C00431445&recipient_name=perkins+coie&two_year_transaction_period=2016&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  10. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00358895&committee_id=C00431569&committee_id=C00575795&committee_id=C00586537&recipient_name=perkins+coie&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  11. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00495028&recipient_name=perkins+coie&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  12. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&recipient_name=perkins+coie&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  13. “Campaign Finance Data: Disbursements.” Federal Election Commission. FEC.gov. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.fec.gov/data/disbursements/?two_year_transaction_period=2016&data_type=processed&committee_id=C00495861&recipient_name=perkins+coie&min_date=01%2F01%2F2015&max_date=12%2F31%2F2016. ^
  14. “Marc E. Elias, Partner.” Perkins Coie. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.perkinscoie.com/en/professionals/marc-e-elias.html. ^
  15. Abramson, Alana. “Marc Elias Fought Trump’s 2020 Election Lawsuits. Can He Win The Battle Over Voting Rights?” Time. April 6, 2021. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://time.com/5952523/marc-elias-voting-laws-challenge/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=editorial&utm_term=politics_courts&linkId=115498650. ^
  16. Abramson, Alana. “Marc Elias Fought Trump’s 2020 Election Lawsuits. Can He Win The Battle Over Voting Rights?” Time. April 6, 2021. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://time.com/5952523/marc-elias-voting-laws-challenge/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=editorial&utm_term=politics_courts&linkId=115498650. ^
  17. Entonus, Adam; et al. “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier. The Washington Post. October 24, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/clinton-campaign-dnc-paid-for-research-that-led-to-russia-dossier/2017/10/24/226fabf0-b8e4-11e7-a908-a3470754bbb9_story.html?utm_term=.3bf449cb9c07. ^
  18. Entonus, Adam; et al. “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier. The Washington Post. October 24, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/clinton-campaign-dnc-paid-for-research-that-led-to-russia-dossier/2017/10/24/226fabf0-b8e4-11e7-a908-a3470754bbb9_story.html?utm_term=.3bf449cb9c07. ^
  19. Kranish, Michael. “Clinton lawyer kept Russian dossier project closely held.” Washington Post. October 27, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-lawyer-kept-russian-dossier-project-closely-held/2017/10/27/e7935276-ba68-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.b72fa8531794. ^
  20. Entonus, Adam; et al. “Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier. The Washington Post. October 24, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/clinton-campaign-dnc-paid-for-research-that-led-to-russia-dossier/2017/10/24/226fabf0-b8e4-11e7-a908-a3470754bbb9_story.html?utm_term=.3bf449cb9c07. ^
  21. Raju, Manu; Herb, Jeremy. “Exclusive: In Hill interviews, top Dems denied knowledge of payments to firm behind Trump dossier.” CNN.com. October 26, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/26/politics/john-podesta-debbie-wasserman-schultz-trump-dossier/index.html. ^
  22. Wilson, Reid. “Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it’s recount time.” The Hill. November 14, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/416847-meet-the-lawyer-democrats-call-when-its-recount-time. ^
  23. Wilson, Reid. “Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it’s recount time.” The Hill. November 14, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/416847-meet-the-lawyer-democrats-call-when-its-recount-time. ^
  24. Vogel, Kenneth P. “The man behind the political cash grab.” Politico. December 12, 2014. Accessed November 28, 2018. https://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/democratic-lawyer-crafted-campaign-finance-deal-113549. ^
  25. Wilson, Reid. “Meet the lawyer Democrats call when it’s recount time.” The Hill. November 14, 2018. Accessed November 27, 2018. https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/416847-meet-the-lawyer-democrats-call-when-its-recount-time. ^
  26. Kranish, Michael. “Clinton lawyer kept Russian dossier project closely held.” Washington Post. October 27, 2017. Accessed August 24, 2021. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clinton-lawyer-kept-russian-dossier-project-closely-held/2017/10/27/e7935276-ba68-11e7-be94-fabb0f1e9ffb_story.html?utm_term=.b72fa8531794. ^
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Elias Law Group


Washington, DC