The big picture: The split between Biden’s team and Elias — who had represented the DNC since 2009 — reflects a larger fight within the party on the best legal approach to expand and protect voting rules.
- Elias argues Democrats should be fighting on every possible front — filing a flurry of lawsuits and exerting public pressure through the media.
- Biden’s team, long guided by lawyer Bob Bauer, is concerned that while Elias’ approach may be emotionally satisfying and make for good headlines, it can backfire with the current conservative makeup of the judiciary.
- The president’s team wants to be more selective in picking legal fights, especially going into a 2024 election that could be especially litigious.
The intrigue: Beyond the philosophical disagreements, Biden’s team became fed up with Elias during the first two years of the administration.
- Elias often did not consult the DNC or the White House before filing lawsuits affecting voting rights and election laws in key states and at times disregarded their concerns with cases, Democrats familiar with the internal deliberations said.
- Biden officials found out Elias had filed some lawsuits only when he announced them — often on MSNBC or Twitter….
- Zoom in: Bauer and Elias faced off last year during the negotiations on strengthening the Electoral Count Act, the law that Donald Trump tried to get Mike Pence to exploit on Jan. 6, 2021.
- Bauer had helped craft the bipartisan bill behind the scenes.
- Elias was openly critical of the proposed bill, writing: “Lacking precision in critical areas, the bill feels less like the product of legislative compromise and more like something constructed in a law school faculty lounge.”
- Many people involved in the negotiations felt that Elias’ tactics were more grandstanding than constructive.
- His public critiques frustrated some senators who co-sponsored the bill — including Mark Warner (D-Va.) — given that Elias also serves as their campaign lawyer. Warner’s office declined to comment.
- “Thank god we got that through, no thanks to Marc,” a Democrat involved in the negotiations told Axios.
- “Bob Bauer was a constructive and insightful sounding board for the senators as they developed the proposals, while Marc Elias’ contribution was serving as a Twitter troll who tried to undermine the effort at every turn,” said one Senate aide.