Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., speaks during a Florida delegation breakfast, Monday, July 25, 2016, in Philadelphia, during the first day of the DNC. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ()
Perkins Coie’s Marc Elias, who has juggled legal roles for both the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee, saw the intersecting interests of both clients unexpectedly become public on Friday with the leak of thousands of DNC emails posted by Wikileaks.
The emails, including at least one authored by Elias, have roiled the Democratic Party nomination process because they indicate that some DNC officials tried to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign. DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned on Sunday over the controversy, and she was loudly heckled by Sanders supporters during an appearance on Monday at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
At least five Perkins Coie lawyers, including Elias, who is the general counsel for Clinton’s campaign, and Democratic Party mainstay Robert Bauer, are included in email exchanges in which DNC staffers discuss strategy. In one email, Elias, the chair of Perkins Coie’s political law practice, urged DNC officials to attack Sanders for allegedly lying when Sanders accused the DNC of improperly using campaign funds to help Clinton.
The Sanders campaign cried foul in a May 2 Politico article, asserting that the DNC was taking campaign contributions from a “Joint Victory Fund” that should have been used for state-level races and funneling them to the Clinton campaign. The next day Perkins Coie’s Elias and partner Graham Wilson were included in an email discussion with former DNC chair Wasserman Schultz and other party officials over how to respond.
Elias urged the DNC to go after Sanders. “My suggestion is that the DNC put out a statement saying that the accusations [by] the Sanders campaign are not true,” he wrote. “Here, Sanders is attacking the DNC. … Just as the RNC pushes back directly on Trump over [his claims of a] ‘rigged system,’ the DNC should push back DIRECTLY at Sanders and say that what he is saying is false and harmful [to] the Democratic party.”
Perkins Coie partner Wilson advised the group that it “is really worthwhile to continue to push back on the Politico story’s numbers being wrong.” It’s not clear if Wilson wanted the DNC to push back, or Clinton’s campaign, or both.
Perkins Coie associates Jacquelyn Lopez and Ruthzee Louijeune were included in several other DNC email chains in which they reviewed political materials and messages. In one message chain, Lopez and DNC officials reviewed a proposed DNC email criticizing Donald Trump’s announced picks for U.S. Supreme Court nominees. “Good with me assuming we have solid backup for the hits in the graphic and email,” Lopez wrote.
We contacted Elias and Perkins Coie for comment but did not hear back.
A few other big firms popped up in the leaked emails. Hogan Lovells was mentioned when it was vetted to host an Immigration Heritage event, with some discussion of whether the firm’s political lobbying might be a problem.
Another email thread chronicled how Clayton Cox, a DNC regional finance director, set up a meeting in Chicago between David Simas, a senior advisor to the President, and Charles Smith, a top litigation partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, sent a May 16 email to a DNC finance director, expressing concern that a fundraiser for young professionals featuring Chelsea Clinton was being hosted by the same person who was working with Kaplan on another Hillary Clinton fundraising event. Kaplan complained that this might sap turnout for her event. “It will be very hard to raise for this event when the very same folks (including me) are raising for Hillary and we can’t link the two. I really think the results are going to be disappointing.”
The announcement that O’Melveny & Myers’ former chairman Arthur Culvahouse Jr. would be vetting Trump’s vice presidential selection was met with some apparent glee by at least one DNC staffer. “Just flagging he’s reiterated how important getting tax returns is,” wrote Kelly Roberts. “Also he vetted Palin … so that’s exciting.”