By: Jeffrey Winograd
The dark shadow of Marc Elias, the maestro of Democratic party election law manipulation and the epitome of legal ethics as it is now practiced in American party politics, has cast a pall over the integrity of activities related to what has become falsely labeled as Election Day.
Elias’ name became mainstream during the 2020 presidential campaign and subsequent post-election legal battles in a host of states but especially in those states where the victory margins for Joseph Biden could potentially be wiped out if the legal challenges by and in behalf of Donald Trump had seen the light of day as opposed to being “canceled” (aka dismissed) in some 40-plus instances solely on the issue of plaintiffs’ legal standing.
According to Wikipedia, “Elias supervised the response to dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign seeking to overturn Biden’s win. Out of 65 such court cases, Elias prevailed in 64.”
Master of Ephemeral Ethics
For those uninitiated in the true politics of Elias, deception is the order of the day. To those under his spell, he appears to be a sweet talker.
But then there is a revelation that suggests something fundamentally undemocratic lurks under his 100% pure façade. “If we don’t use the tools we have to save democracy today, then we may have a wonderful museum of unused tools in the future, but we won’t have a democracy to use them in the future,” he recently told Sue Halpern, a writer for The New Yorker.
This from the same guy who played a prominent role in the events that led to the probe of the recently elected 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.
As described by political reporter Mollie Hemingway in “Rigged,” in 2016, Elias, on behalf of the “Hillary for America” campaign and the Democratic National Committee, hired a firm called Fusion GPS to do opposition research on Trump. Fusion then retained Christopher Steele who produced the salacious and fictional “Steele dossier” which was instrumental in the creation of the Robert Mueller probe of Trump.
The funding for Steele came from part of the $5.6 million in legal fees paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC to the firm of Perkins Coie where Elias headed its political law practice. This was a closely guarded secret hidden behind alleged attorney-client privilege. On Oct. 24, 2017, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, a darling of progressive Democrats, posted a tweet: “Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and sanctimoniously, for a year.”
And here is another insight into the ethical conduct of Elias.
Commenting on Elias’ efforts to boost campaign finance limits on political parties, Prof. Rick Hasen, University of California, Irvine School of Law, a highly respected legal scholar who writes the popular Election Law Blog, stated in a Jan. 30, 2022, post: “One election lawyer wrote to me, ‘And did you notice that Elias was paid $20 million by dark money groups to fund his rogue, scattershot legal work in 2020?’”
If the claim cited by the anonymous source of Pro. Hasen holds up to scrutiny, coupled with his actions in the case of the Steele dossier, what should people think about the legal ethics presumably taught at the Duke University School of Law, Elias’ alma mater?
Legal Targets and Political Accusations
Besides his legal practice which he now plies at the Elias Law Group, a firm he founded after leaving his long sojourn at Perkins Coie, Elias heads a feel-good, Democratic-oriented outfit called Democracy Docket. It is not a law firm but rather a convenient platform through which he spouts his brand of democracy and his version of voting as it should be in the United States.
Some of the generalized voting-related issues prominent on Democracy Docket’s website include election administration, voting by mail, voter registration, in-person voting and redistricting litigation.
In turn, delving into these broad areas will reveal a host of issues ripe for Elias-style litigation, including but not limited to: drop boxes for ballots; ballot counting procedures; voter assistance; ballot harvesting; photo identification; signature matching; ballot counting deadlines; polling locations; voting machines; recounts; ballot curing; absentee voting; and purging of voter rolls.
So, at first blush the Elias mindset sounds good until taking a closer look at the content of his writing and his choice words about the Republican Party and its adherents:
- The Republican Party “wants our electoral system to break.”
- The Republican Party has “abandoned decency and respect.”
- Republican “election deniers, vote suppressors, ‘Big Lie’ advocates.”
- Republicans “seek to fence racial minorities and young voters out of the political process.”
- So-called “dog whistles … have been replaced by [Republicans] blaring sirens of authoritarianism.”
- Republicans seeks to benefit “from damaging our democratic system of elections.”
What Lies Ahead?
An Oct. 28 article by the Supreme Court reporter for the Washington Examiner carried the banner “More than 100 election lawsuits threaten to plague 2022 midterm elections and beyond.”
It seems that there is fertile ground ahead for the likes of Marc Elias and other Democratic lawyers to ply their trade. According to the article, “many of the GOP-led challenges seek to challenge new rules for mail-in voting, early voting, vote counting and voter registration.”
One can imagine a smug look on Elias’ face when he pronounced to The New Yorker staff writer, “I really believe that when the history books are written, what they write about our generation will be whether or not we were able to preserve democracy.”
Presumably he meant only his version of democracy!