Clinton Campaign, DNC fined by FEC over Trump dossier
Central role of former Perkins Coie attorney Elias downplayed
This past week, it was reported by the Washington Examiner that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the 2016 Hillary for America (HFA) campaign were fined by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for violating rules for expenditures involving the payments funneled by the Perkins Coie law firm to the opposition research firm Fusion GPS.
The FEC sent a memo about the fines to the Coolidge-Reagan Foundation (CRF), the organization which brought the complaint. The memo said that HFA would be fined a mere $8,000 and the DNC just $105,000.
“This may well be the first time that Hillary Clinton—evidently one of the most corrupt politicians in American history—has actually been held legally accountable, and I’m proud to see the FEC do its job for once,” Dan Backer, an attorney with CRF who filed the original complaint, said in a statement.
“The Coolidge Reagan Foundation proved that, with pluck and grit, Americans standing with integrity can stand up to the Clinton machine and other corrupt political elites,” Backer said. “Clinton and her cronies willfully engaged in the greatest political fraud in history, destroying our nation’s faith in the electoral process, and it’s high time they were held accountable. Let’s hope this is only the beginning for accountability, not the end.”
Compared to the massive amount of money that was funneled through Perkins Coie, the fines are very small. The DNC and HFA paid Perkins Coie $1,024,407 combined, representing the payments as “legal advice and services.” Of that over $1 million in payments, $175,000 in money from HFA and $849,407 from the DNC paid for the Fusion GPS research that went into the dossier.
In its memo to CRF’s attorney Dan Backer, the FEC said that the DNC and HFA were paying the fees “Solely for the purpose of settling this matter expeditiously and to avoid further legal costs, respondent[s] does not concede, but will not further contest the commission's finding of probable cause to proceed…”
The FEC’s memo did not delve into the allegations made in the CRF complaint against the central figure in the payments: former Perkins Coie partner Marc Elias.
Elias was the Clinton campaign’s lawyer during the 2016 election cycle and is cited in the CRF complaint as having facilitated the payments to Fusion GPS.
An interesting piece of information related to the timing of the FEC memo is that at the same time, the FEC dismissed a related complaint, according to the NY Times:
"At the same time the Federal Election Commission decided that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party had probably violated campaign finance law, the agency dismissed related complaints against Mr. Elias, Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele, according to the commission’s letter to Mr. Backer and a letter to Mr. Elias that was obtained by The New York Times.”
While the FEC memo leaves Elias out, the CRF filing does make significant allegations against him and his former Firm.
The complaint alleges that both HFA and the DNC routed money through Elias and Perkins Coie to "avoid disclosure" and that both Elias and the firm knew this was the case.
"By knowingly acting as a straw-person conduit for the transfer of funds from HFA and/or the DNC to Fusion GPS, Elias and Perkins Coie aided and abetted their violations of federal campaign finance law,” the CRF complaint alleges.
The same section of the complaint that references Elias as central to paying Fusion GPS contains an internal Perkins Coie memo describing that scenario.
Additionally, the CRF complaint claimed that “HFA’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, personally approved the payment to Perkins Coie, suggesting he approved the hiring and deployment of Steele."
Mook and Elias, along with Hillary Clinton herself, are among the dozens named in the lawsuit filed by former President Donald Trump over their roles in promoting the false Russian conspiracy narrative and dossier.
Elias is also one of the subjects in the criminal investigation being conducted by Special Counsel John Durham. Former Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham in October of 2020 to investigate the circumstances around the 2016 election involving Trump and Clinton.
To date, Durham has indicted former Perkins Coie lawyer Michael Sussman on charges of lying to the FBI. Sussman worked with the DNC in tandem with Elias and HFA during the 2016 election.
In January of this year, a filing by Durham revealed that Elias was “Campaign Lawyer-1” in the Sussmann indictment and that he, along with numerous others, have testified before a grand jury.
Following the 2020 election Elias has several times denied he had any involvement in the dossier; a claim which has repeatedly been proven to be untrue.
It is not known when Elias testified before a Grand Jury or how many times, but in late August of 2021, Elias suddenly left Perkins Coie and opened up the Elias Law Group. Elias claimed he was making the move because “our democracy is at risk and it is the most effective way for me to fight back.” What is more likely is Perkins Coie read the room, saw him and Sussman as liabilities, and then pointed at the door.