By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 9, 2016
A politically connected law firm in Washington, D.C., Perkins Coie, may find itself in the embarrassing and reputation-damaging position of being named a co-defendant in a high profile case where it is the sole legal counsel of record for the defendants. The Federal lawsuit was brought by Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for overt acts to undermine the Sanders’ campaign while boosting the prospects of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Presidential nominee. Under the DNC’s own bylaws, it must act in a fair and impartial manner to all Democratic candidates during the primaries.
After the lawsuit was filed, Wikileaks released almost 20,000 emails that had been hacked at the DNC by an unknown party. The emails buttressed the allegations in the lawsuit and created so much media notoriety against the DNC that Wasserman Schultz stepped down as Chair along with three other DNC executives whose emails were leaked. Multiple emails also show lawyers at Perkins Coie engaging in strategy that appears to benefit Clinton over Sanders.
Adding to the growing interest in the lawsuit, a 38-year old process server, Shawn Lucas, who served the lawsuit on the DNC at their Washington, D.C. headquarters on July 1, was found dead last Tuesday in his bathroom of still-to-be-determined causes. The Lucas death came just nine days after an attorney for the Sanders’ plaintiffs, Jared Beck, released a YouTube video outlining the serious allegations it plans to make against Perkins Coie in court. In the video (embedded below), Beck reads from an email that had been sent to Perkins Coie on July 25, indicating that plaintiffs’ lawyers anticipate the filing of a motion in the Federal Court case “to disqualify Perkins Coie LLP (‘Perkins Coie’) as defense counsel in this case. It has come to our attention that Perkins Coie appears to be a potential material witness and/or defendant in this case and, moreover, appears to have a potential disqualifying conflict of interest.”
As of this writing, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Washington, D.C. is not releasing the cause of death for Shawn Lucas. Prior to his death, Lucas had gained social media attention through a video released of the service of process. In the video, Lucas compares the serving of this lawsuit to his “birthday and Christmas” all rolled into one. He happily calls out to the DNC representative who eventually accepts the complaint, “Thank you so much, we’ll see you in court.” That video has now been viewed over 380,000 times.
Perkins Coie has both revenues and reputation at risk in this matter. According to its web site, it has “more than 1,000 lawyers in 19 offices across the United States.” According to the legal web site, Chambers, “its client roster now reads like a who’s who of social media and technology companies.” Chambers lists three of the largest market cap companies in America as its clients — Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft – and notes that Boeing has been its client for a century. (Perkins Coie is headquartered in Seattle where Boeing was founded.)
What has to be equally distressing to a powerful law firm is that the Chair of its Political Law practice, Marc Elias, has been implicated in the leaked emails from Wikileaks and is turning up in the pages of the Washington Post, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the CEO of its client, Amazon.
On July 25, under the headline “Here are the latest, most damaging things in the DNC’s leaked emails,” Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake called out an email from Marc Elias, writing:
“A Clinton lawyer gives DNC strategy advice on Sanders — When the Sanders campaign alleged that the Clinton campaign was improperly using its joint fundraising committee with the DNC to benefit itself, Clinton campaign lawyer Marc Elias offered the DNC guidance on how to respond. ‘My suggestion is that the DNC put out a statement saying that the accusations the Sanders campaign are not true,’ Elias said May 3 in response to an email about the issue sent by communications director Luis Miranda to other DNC stuff that copied Elias and another lawyer at his firm, Perkins Coie.
“Elias continued: ‘The fact that CNN notes that you aren’t getting between the two campaigns is the problem. Here, Sanders is attacking the DNC and its current practice, its past practice with the POTUS and with Sec Kerry. Just as the RNC pushes back directly on Trump over ‘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.’ ”
According to Perkins Coie’s web site, law partner Marc Elias is “currently general counsel to Hillary for America,” the main fundraising vehicle for Hillary Clinton’s political campaign. Adding to questions about his impartiality, Elias simultaneously served as one of a team of lawyers from Perkins Coie providing legal advice to the DNC. (Elias also provides legal advice to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic Governors Associations, according to the Perkins Coie web site.)
Filings made to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) show that Perkins Coie has received at least $970,000 from the Hillary for America committee since 2015 for legal work while simultaneously receiving more than $500,000 from the DNC, not including reimbursement of its expenses for things like postage, catering and printing. Perkins Coie is also representing a Super Pac that is supporting Hillary Clinton called “Correct the Record.” FEC records show Correct the Record paid Perkins Coie $15,000 for legal services on April 26, 2016.
In a 2014 article at Politico, titled “The man behind the political cash grab,” reporter Ken Vogel explains just how lucrative it has been for Perkins Coie over the years to be the legal-go-to-guys for the Democratic power base in Washington. Vogel writes:
“Perkins Coie’s political law practice, anchored by Elias and former White House Counsel Bob Bauer, has something of a stranglehold on the Democratic Party’s election law business, representing not only the party committees themselves but everyone from [Harry] Reid (whose various committees have paid $317,000 in legal fees to Perkins Coie over the years) to Obama ($7.4 million) to the major Democratic super PACs ($19 million).”
The thrust of the article, however, is that Elias played a central role in further opening the spigots for legal revenues his firm might be expected to collect in the future by tinkering with Federal legislation at the eleventh hour. Vogel writes:
“A powerful Democratic lawyer helped craft a provision that was slipped into a year-end spending bill allowing political parties to raise huge new pools of cash — including some for legal fees that are likely going to be collected by his own firm…
“The change has the potential to halt or at least slow the erosion of power of the political parties, since it would increase the maximum amount of cash that rich donors may give to the national Democratic and Republican party committees each year from $97,400 to $777,600 or more.”
As Wall Street On Parade has regularly reminded our readers, this is not an election to be viewed as a spectator or taken casually — not if you care about the future of your country and the dreams and hopes of the next generation.