Hillary Clinton's chief legal counsel excoriated one of President Obama's most high profile appointees on the Federal Election Commission for what he said was an "endless desire to be portrayed in the press as a profile in courage."
The exchange began with an email from Clinton sharing a May 2, 2015 article in the New York Times. The article centered on Democratic FEC Commissioner Ann Ravel's contention that her agency was "dysfunctional" and unwilling to enforce campaign finance laws.
Legal counsel Marc Elias advised Clinton to discount Ravel's concerns. "I have no illusions about the FEC or its power. I do, however, think this article is significantly overstated. It is the product of Ann Ravel's endless desire to be portrayed in the press as a profile in courage," Elias wrote.
Elias pointed out that the Department of Justice had the ability to pursue cases that prosecutors truly believed were violations of the law, and that the department had recently done so against Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, issuing an indictment of alleged bribery. He also pointed out that the composition of the FEC would soon change, and noted Democrats aggressively pursued Republicans who came "even close" to violating the rules.
"Every time a GOP candidate does something even close to the line, they are hit by a complaint. Multiple complaints have been filed against Jeb Bush over his relationship with superpacs. Most recently Sen. [Rand] Paul was hit with a complaint over receiving an advance briefing on the hit-job book. These come from a variety of sources — good government groups, CREW, and a new group set up by David Brock," Elias noted.
Ravel won presidential appointment to the FEC in 2013, and has since become one of the most-recognized Democratic regulators in Washington for her effort to expand regulatory initiatives at the agency. She made news for personally meeting with President Obama in January, and is reportedly under consideration for an appointment as California attorney general.
The exchange included Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, campaign manager Robby Mook, top aide Huma Abedin, finance director Dean Cheng, and communications director Jennifer Palmieri. Elias is a longtime Democratic operative and partner at the Seattle-based Perkins Coie LLP.
The emails were acquired from Podesta and published by WikiLeaks. The organization has published more than 17,000 emails from Podesta's personal Gmail account this month, with as many as 30,000 more on the way. WikiLeaks has not said how the messages were obtained.