Perkins Coie is a Seattle-based law firm of more than 1,000 lawyers, roughly 40 of which work for its political law practice that serves Democratic and left-of-center political candidates and non-profit clients. Perkins Coie received at least $26 million for legal fees and related expenses during the 2016 election cycle for representing the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Hillary for America committee, the Obama for America committee, and dozens of other Democratic and Democratic-aligned political campaign committees and advocacy organizations.
In 2018, billionaire left-wing donor George Soros gave $5 million to Perkins Coie so the political law practice could file lawsuits to eliminate mandatory voter identification requirements and other state regulations left-of-center activists argue depress turnout among left-leaning constituencies.
Marc Elias, chair of the political law practice, is a central figure in the controversy regarding the creation, veracity, and subsequent handling of a document that alleges the existence of conspiracies between the Russian government and persons associated with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. During April of 2016 Elias paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC. These payments led to the creation of a dossier which claimed the existence of a conspiracy between the Russian government and persons associated with the Trump campaign to illegally interfere in the Presidential election.
The political law group has also represented Facebook before the Federal Election Commission in the social media giant’s effort to obtain an exemption for paid political campaign advertisements shown on its platform from a requirement to disclose the source of payment.
Perkins Coie is a law firm headquartered in Seattle, Washington, with more than 1,000 lawyers in 19 offices spread across the United States, China, and Taiwan. Founded in 1912, it 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.
Political Law Practice
The Perkins Coie political law practice was begun in 1980 by attorney Robert Bauer, and the firm now claims it is the “dominant practice in the field” and largest in the nation, with 40 lawyers. 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.
Political law group founder Robert Bauer was the chair of political law until late 2009, when he was 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.
Marc Elias was named chair of the political law practice in November 2009, following the announcement that Bauer was leaving to become White House Counsel.
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 the handling of—and access to—absentee ballots. Cases have been opened in Arizona, Ohio, Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas and North Dakota.
Russia Dossier Work
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.
The Clinton campaign declined to use the dossier during the election. The most sensational allegations, particularly those implicating President Trump personally, had not been verified as of late 2017 and – according to a Washington Post analysis – “may never be [verifiable].”
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.
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 Debbie Wasserman Schultz 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.
The dossier became a political and legal lightning rod because Steele turned it over to the FBI during the waning days of the election. Agents supplied the document to a federal judge as some of the supporting evidence to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against a former Trump campaign advisor.
The left-leaning Campaign Legal Center filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against the Clinton campaign and the DNC in October of 2017, accusing both of failing to file accurate campaign finance reports because—according to the complaint—the payments were concealed as legal representation from Perkins Coie, rather than as opposition research from Fusion GPS. Former FEC chairman Brad Smith (R), commenting about the complaint in May 2018 to the left-of-center Center for Public Integrity, said he would be “a bit nervous” if he were in Perkins Coie’s position.
Facebook Advertisement Disclosure
Also see Facebook (For-Profit)
Political advertising regarding federal elections and candidates that is purchased for appearance on radio, television and print generally must adhere to Federal Election Commission rules requiring clear disclosure of the committee or donor paying for the advertisements. During 2011, Google and Facebook hired Perkins Coie attorney Marc Elias to help them obtain an exemption from this requirement for political advertising on their platforms. Elias argued the restrictions were not practical for his clients, with FEC commissioners ultimately voting 4-2 in favor of the exemption for Google and deadlocking 3-3 on the request regarding Facebook.
Facebook continued to operate as if exempt from disclosure rules. During the 2016 U.S. general election, $100,000 worth of Russian-backed and undisclosed advertisements intended to influence voters were purchased on Facebook with another $4,700 spent by Russian sources on Google political advertisements. In October 2017, following the controversy that ensued regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections, both Republican and Democratic Senators advocated for legislation to require Facebook and Google to adhere to the same disclosure rules as other media. 
In 2018, the firm challenged Republican-drawn redistricting maps in Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate Recount
Perkins Coie attorney 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 assert he’d paid for the “Franken Wing of the Perkins Coie law office.”
In addition to the Democratic National Committee and a number of Democratic presidential campaigns, Perkins Coie has represented a number of liberal and Democratic-aligned political committees and nonprofit groups.
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, 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.
Political Action Committees
Perkins Coie is the firm of choice for Democratic Party-affiliated committees and for Super PACs aligned with the Democratic Party leadership in Congress and the states. FEC records show $7,268,492 total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses during the 2016 election cycle from DNC Services Corp.—an operating name for the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—and Democratic National Convention Committee to Perkins Coie. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) made $1,410,136 in total disbursements for legal fees and related expenses, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported $1,512,484 in total disbursements for the 2016 election cycle to the firm. 
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,  $474,980 from Senate Majority PAC,  and $1,428,655 from Priorities USA (PAC). 
The firm also represented American Bridge 21st Century, a David Brock-founded super PAC involved in opposition research and “tracking” Republican candidates, and Correct the Record, a now defunct, Brock-linked super PAC which supported Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Other Left-Wing Groups
Other notable Perkins Coie political clients include the liberal get-out-the-vote group America Votes Action Fund,  the labor union activist group Americans United for Change (AUFC),  the gun-control organization Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS),  pro-abortion candidate recruitment group Emily’s List,  Obamacare advocacy group Enroll America,  Brock-founded media critic group Media Matters for America,  pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America,  the Tom Steyer-funded environmentalist advocacy group NextGen Climate Action Committee,  Obama legacy advocacy group Organizing for Action (OFA),  radical feminist group UltraViolet, and liberal get-out-the-vote-group Voto Latino. 
Political Law Group Personnel
The political law group at Perkins Coie has approximately 40 lawyers. Those with significant current or past work in Democratic politics or with left-leaning advocacy organizations are profiled below.
Also see Marc Elias
Following Robert Bauer’s appointment as White House counsel for President Obama, Marc E. Elias succeed him in November 2009 as chair of the political law group at Perkins Coie. He 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 are 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 PAC, Senate Majority PAC, Priorities USA (PAC), and EMILY’s List. He is also on the board of directors for Democratic-aligned Super PAC Priorities USA.
A partner in the firm, the firm’s biography states Rebecca Gordon “counsels corporations, trade associations, lobbying firms and other entities on the entire spectrum of legal issues that impact their ability to interact with and impact federal and state governments.”
She was deputy general counsel at Obama for America (2007-08), counsel to the presidential nominee at Kerry-Edwards 2004, and is counsel for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). She also represented EMILY’s List in litigation involving the Federal Elections Commission.
Graham Wilson is a partner in Perkins Coie. His biography states that he “counsels clients on federal and state campaign finance law, voting rights, Congressional and Executive Branch ethics regulations.” He is a counsel for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), America Votes, and the America Votes Action Fund. He has also represented EMILY’s List in litigation involving the Federal Elections Commission. 
Ezra Reese is a partner in the firm who focuses on “nonprofit tax law and political law, with an emphasis on nonprofit organizations that wish to engage in lobbying or electoral activity.” His client work includes work for America Votes, Americans United for Change (AUFC), NARAL Pro-Choice America, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), Senate Majority PAC, House Majority PAC, Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century, Enroll America, General Majority PAC, Correct the Record, NextGen Climate Action Committee, NextGen Climate Action, UltraViolet, Voto Latino, the Democratic Leadership Council, and EMILY’s List. 
A partner in the firm, Jonathan Berkon’s biography states he “focuses his practice on the laws governing state and local elections, ballot initiatives and issue advocacy, helping clients achieve their political and policy objectives in jurisdictions across the country.” Also, his “arrival at Perkins Coie coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United, and he has been at the forefront in shaping his clients’ response.” One particular focus of his practice is to advise as counsel to organizations seeking to elect Democratic governors.
Elisabeth Frost is a partner in Perkins Coie. Her biography states that she “has extensive experience representing voters, campaigns, political committees and others with an interest in the political process in actions in state and federal courts.”
A partner in the firm, the firm’s biography states that Kate Keane “is a go-to legal authority on ethics-related issues and the interplay of regulations on political activity that govern officials, political parties, companies and other participants in the political system.” She serves as counsel for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), and individual committees for candidates running for Congress.
Katherine Labeau is associate counsel for Perkins Coie. Her biography states that she “advises tax-exempt organizations on a spectrum of tax, corporate and campaign finance matters.” Her previous employment included stints in the Office of Management and Budget (2011-13) during the Obama Administration and as a legislative fellow for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio) during 2013. Her client work includes work for Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century, NextGen Climate Action Committee, NextGen Climate Action, UltraViolet, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). 
A partner in the firm, Brian Svoboda’s biography states that he “helps clients to organize and achieve their political objectives, and defends them when their activities have drawn unwanted controversy” and “advises on all aspects of ethics and campaign finance laws.” The experience listed for him shows representation of several clients regarding investigations by Congressional ethics committees and matters regarding the Federal Elections Commission.
Karl Sandstrom is listed as “senior counsel” for Perkins Coie. His biography states that he “represents clients before federal and state courts, administrative agencies and legislative bodies in matters arising in ethics and lobbying, campaign finance, communication, corporate governance, civil service, and tax law.”
Tyler Hagenbuch is a political law attorney with the firm. The firm’s biography states he “helps clients understand the web of federal, state and local laws in the areas of campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, government ethics and pay-to-play rules.” He assisted Perkins Coie advising the 2016 Clinton campaign and also worked on both Obama presidential campaigns.
Kevin Hamilton is a partner with the firm, and his primary focus is labor and employment law. He also has significant experience litigating election recounts for Democratic candidates represented by the firm.
Bruce Spiva is a partner with the firm, and has worked on Congressional redistricting and voting eligibility cases.