McAuliffe spends big in final days on sanctioned lawyer who sued to overturn Iowa House race

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Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s campaign has made a late-game push before the election, spending nearly $60,000 on a high-profile attorney known for representing Democrats and masterminding some election-related legal challenges.

Less than a month before the end of McAuliffe’s race against Republican Glenn Youngkin, records show, the Democrat’s campaign spent $53,680 on the services of the Elias Law Group, a new firm started earlier this year by Marc Elias.

Elias’ name has been linked to Democrats running for office for years, as he was previously a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie. That is the same firm that was hired by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and it was Elias who was involved in bringing on Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump – the research that included Christopher Steele’s dossier.

Elias founded the firm in August of this year after leaving Perkins Coie. Several months earlier, in March, a judge ordered sanctions against Elias in a case where he represented Democrats challenging a Texas law barring “straight ticket voting” going into the 2020 election. Elias and other attorneys filed a motion in the case in February without mentioning that they had already filed what the court called a “nearly identical” motion in September 2020 that had been denied.

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    Attorney Marc Elias on Aug. 3, 2016. (David Jolkovski for The Washington Post via Getty Images) ( )

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    Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe speaks during his campaign rally in Dumfries, Virginia Oct. 21, 2021.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

The judge called for sanctions against Elias and his colleagues including reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs” that the other side incurred related to the February motion, as well as “double costs.” The court said that the attorneys are also “encouraged” to review the applicable section of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, and to go through one hour of Continuing Legal Education related to ethics and professionalism, “specifically candor with the court.”

Just days later, House Republicans accused Elias of having a “serious conflict of interest” when he represented Iowa Democratic candidate Rita Hart in her effort to overturn the results of her extremely narrow loss to Republican Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. GOP members House Administration Committee said that Elias had a conflict because he and Perkins Coie – where he still worked at the time – also represented half of the Democratic committee members who would be deciding the case. 

Fox News reached out to McAuliffe’s campaign but they did not immediately respond.

Elias’ former Perkins Coie co-worker, Michael Sussmann, is now facing a federal criminal charge for allegedly lying to the FBI about not acting on behalf of any client when he met with agents to provide information related to possible ties between a Russian bank and the Trump Organization. That information ultimately did not lead anywhere, and prosecutors allege that Sussmann was acting on behalf of the Clinton campaign when he arranged the meeting. 

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