Clinton Lawyer, Podesta Involved With Anti-Trump Litigation Group

Democracy Forward has filed a number of lawsuits against federal government agencies

Marc Elias with John Podesta / Getty Images
November 3, 2017

Marc Elias, Hillary Clinton's former top campaign lawyer who is considered the "go-to fixer" for Democrats, and John Podesta, Clinton's former campaign manager, are quietly involved with a low-profile organization that uses litigation to take on the Trump administration and government agencies.

The sister of Sen. Kamala Harris, the California Democrat who has been floated as a potential presidential candidate in 2020, and the political director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are also involved with the group.

The Democracy Forward Foundation, a D.C.-based 501(c)3 nonprofit with a 501(c)4 arm called Democracy Forward, describes itself as a "nonpartisan" group that "scrutinizes Executive Branch activity," according to its mission statement.

"With a team of experienced litigators, researchers, and policy experts, Democracy Forward scrutinizes Executive Branch activity across policy areas, challenges unlawful actions through litigation, and educates the public about improper government activity," its website reads.

"We believe that whenever the Executive Branch pursues unlawful policies or violates the rules, our democracy suffers and real people are hurt," it continues. "Democracy Forward was created to fight back and ensure those transgressions do not go unnoticed or unchallenged."

The Democracy Forward Foundation and Democracy Forward were both incorporated on March 29, according to D.C. business records. Katherine LeBeau, an associate at the Perkins Coie law firm where Marc Elias is a partner, incorporated both groups.

The group has remained relatively obscure since its inception despite filing lawsuits against the likes of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, and the Office of Management and Budget. They have additionally filed complaints for injunctive relief against the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense.

Democracy Forward's executive team features individuals who previously worked on Obama and Clinton campaigns despite billing itself as a "nonpartisan" group.

Anne Harkavy, the group's executive director, was a senior legal advisor to the general counsel of Obama for America, Obama's former campaign committee. Corey Ciorciari, its policy and strategy director who oversees Democracy Forward's policy, research, and communications teams, was a policy advisor for Clinton during her 2016 campaign.

Javier Guzman, the legal director, came from the Department of Justice. Alex Hornbrook, Democracy Forward's operations director, served as director of scheduling and advance for Hillary for America, Clinton's campaign committee.

Democracy Forward's board of directors also features a number of liberal power players.

Elias chairs the board that includes Podesta. Maya Harris, Sen. Kamala Harris's sister who helped craft Clinton's agenda for the failed campaign and is a political analyst for MSNBC, is also a member of its board.

Faiz Shakir, who became the national political director of the ACLU in January; Ronald Klain, a Democratic operative who was President Obama's "Ebola Czar"; Matthew Miller, an MSNBC justice and security analyst; and Scott Nathan, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, which was founded by Podesta, also sit on the board of directors.

Democracy Forward did not return a request for comment by press time.

Using litigation to fight the Trump administration is a key strategy for Democratic partisans.

David Brock, the conservative investigative reporter turned Clinton ally who founded Media Matters, discussed using litigation is confidential documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon in January at a posh Florida retreat that featured liberal mega-donors.

Brock, who in 2014 took control of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) but left the organization in late 2016, spoke of using CREW as an avenue of fighting Trump's presidency through litigation.

A number of state attorneys general who have filed suit against the Trump administration also appeared at Brock's conference.