Virginia-Based Voter Suppression Group Paid Thousands to Voting Rights 'Champion' Marc Elias

Liberal lawyer worked for PAC that worked to suppress GOP support for Glenn Youngkin

Marc Elias / AP
January 11, 2022

A political action committee that published deceptive campaign ads to suppress Republican votes for Virginia governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (R.) paid thousands of dollars to Marc Elias, a Democratic election lawyer whom liberals tout as a champion of election integrity and voting rights.

Accountability Virginia PAC paid $5,254 last year to Elias Law Group, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon. The PAC paid $12,578 to Perkins Coie, the firm where Elias worked until 2021. Axios reported in September that the Democrat-run PAC masqueraded as a conservative group to divert support from Youngkin.

Accountability Virginia came under fire for ​​running social media ads in rural Virginia that misleadingly claimed conservatives were upset with Youngkin's support for the Second Amendment.  Dominion Energy, a company that contributed to the PAC, sought a refund for a $200,000 contribution because of the group's deceptive tactics.

The PAC's payments to Elias's firms, which have not been previously reported, were for unspecified legal services. The payments were made from Sept. 13 to Dec. 16, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Elias's work for the PAC could undercut his vaunted status among Democrats as a defender of voting rights and election integrity. Elias has filed lawsuits for Democratic groups challenging state laws he claims restrict voters' access to the polls. He is also leading the legal battle to redraw congressional districts that Democrats say have been designed to disenfranchise minority voters. He appears frequently on MSNBC and CNN to accuse Republicans of voter suppression.

Accountability Virginia PAC has likewise been accused of suppressing Republican turnout in Virginia. The group's ads, published on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, were written as if they came from conservative gun-rights supporters. The ads questioned Youngkin's commitment to the Second Amendment and suggested the then-candidate was out of step with the National Rifle Association. One Snapchat ad said of Youngkin, "We can’t trust him on the Second Amendment."

The NRA blasted the ads, while Facebook and Instagram removed them for violating the companies' advertising policies. The NRA released a statement that called the ads "disingenuous" and accused Virginia Accountability PAC of "targeting gun owners in their voter suppression campaign."

The PAC spent $87,236 between Sept. 21 and Nov. 2 to publish anti-Youngkin ads on Facebook and Instagram.

It is unclear whether Elias was aware of the ad campaign. Elias's firms were the only ones to provide legal services to Virginia Accountability PAC. Elias did not respond to a request for comment.

The PAC's payments to Elias also raise questions about what Youngkin's Democratic opponent, former governor Terry McAuliffe, knew of the operation. McAuliffe's campaign hired Elias Law Group just before the election, raising speculation that Elias planned to challenge the election results in the event of a Youngkin victory. When asked about hiring Elias, a McAuliffe aide inadvertently sent an email to a Fox News reporter that described attempts to "kill" a story about payments to the controversial lawyer. Youngkin defeated McAuliffe by more than 60,000 votes.

Elias represented McAuliffe during a 2016 investigation into whether the then-governor accepted illegal donations from a Chinese businessman. Elias and McAuliffe both worked for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group formed by former attorney general Eric Holder to redraw congressional districts and support Democratic candidates.

Elias's work for Accountability Virginia PAC is not the first time he has blurred ethical lines. Elias is notorious among conservatives for his role in commissioning the discredited Steele dossier on behalf of the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. The FBI relied heavily on the dossier for its investigation into possible collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia.

Elias's former partner at Perkins Coie, Michael Sussmann, was indicted by Special Counsel John Durham on charges that he lied to the FBI about his role in pushing Trump-Russia collusion allegations. According to the indictment, a Clinton campaign lawyer who has been identified as Elias briefed the media and members of the campaign about a since-discredited claim that the Trump Organization had a covert communications line with a Russian bank. Elias left Perkins Coie to form Elias Law Group in September, weeks before Sussmann's indictment.

A Texas appeals court sanctioned Elias last year for making "misleading" claims in court filings that challenged the Lone Star State's opposition to single-ticket voting. Elias also worked to overturn the results of two House races that Republicans won in 2020. He filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of former representative Anthony Brindisi (D., N.Y.) that blamed voting machine errors for his loss to Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.). Elias also represented Iowa Democratic candidate Rita Hart in her bid to reverse her election loss to Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R.). Elias bypassed state courts and called on the House of Representatives to overturn the election results.

Elias publicly rebuked Trump supporters for claiming that voting machines altered votes in the 2020 presidential election.