House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and two other Democratic members of the panel have a conflict of interest because each is represented by Marc Elias, the lawyer for two Democratic candidates in 2020 election results being challenged before the Lofgren panel, according to Republican critics.
“We write to bring to your attention to a serious conflict of interest regarding Marc Elias, an attorney with the law firm Perkins Coie,” Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), the ranking minority member of the administration committee, wrote in a March 19 letter to Lofgren.
“In the election contests currently before us, Mr. Elias simultaneously represents Members of the Committee, the triers of fact and law, and parties to these contests, an arrangement clearly prohibited by attorney ethics rules and obligations.”
Also signing the letter were the other two Republicans on the committee, Reps. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia and Bryan Steil of Wisconsin.
Elias and the Seattle-based Perkins Coie law firm frequently represent Democratic campaigns and candidates in election law and ethics cases. He and colleagues from the firm were recently sanctioned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for filing “redundant and misleading information” and ordered to pay legal and punitive costs of their opponents in the case.
The Elias firm was representing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a lawsuit against Texas officials in the case that prompted the sanctioning.
Elias also represented 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whose campaign paid for the opposition research firm he hired, Fusion GPS.
It was Fusion GPS that produced the discredited Steele dossier containing multiple false allegations against former President Donald Trump that was at the center of the Russiagate scandal.
The conflict of interest highlighted by the Republicans consists of the fact Elias simultaneously represents Lofgren and two other Democratic committee members—Reps. Pete Aguilar of California and Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania—as well as Hart.
Democrat Rita Hart is challenging the November 2020 election of Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by six votes. Miller-Meeks’s victory was certified by state election officials following a recount. Hart’s challenge is now before the administration panel, which has oversight jurisdiction for federal elections.
Elias also represents Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) whose election last November by more than 5,600 votes is being challenged before the Lofgren committee by Republican Jim Oberweis. Underwood represents a suburban Chicago district that was once represented by GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.
“Rule 1.7 of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct clearly prohibit an attorney from engaging in representation that involves ‘a concurrent conflict of interest,’” the Republicans told Lofgren.
“Such a conflict exists here: You, Mr. Aguilar, and Ms. Scanlon serve as triers of fact and law on the tribunal charged with deciding election contests, and Mr. Elias represents you; Ms. Hart and Ms. Underwood are parties to election contests before the Committee, and Mr. Elias represents them.
“Your interests are quite clearly ‘directly adverse’ to one another, and Mr. Elias’ ability to offer advice to both sides certainly ‘will be materially limited by [his] responsibilities to another client,’ namely you, Mr. Aguilar, Ms. Scanlon, and the parties to the election contests before the Committee. Rule 1.7(a).
“We are gravely concerned that these serious conflicts of interest and ethical lapses on the part of counsel compromise the work of this committee, and, more specifically, demonstrate further that the Democratic Members of this committee operate not in search of the truth but solely in search of partisan, political gain.”
Davis, Loudermilk, and Steil urged Lofgren “to take immediate, affirmative steps to ensure that this committee follows a fair process for all parties involved in this election contest and guarantees to all parties involved that counsel will provide only true, accurate, and candid information to the tribunal considering this contest, this committee.”
A spokesman for Lofgren didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time, nor did spokesmen for any of the other five Democrats on the administration panel. A spokesman for Elias couldn’t be reached.
Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott can be reached at email@example.com.