[h/t to IThinkAlot for this catch]
“The Federal Election Commission (FEC) was sued in federal court on Tuesday for allegedly failing to enforce campaign finance laws against the National Rifle Association (NRA).”
Raw Story via BuzzFeed’s court and justice reporter Zoe Tillman reports the lawsuit alleges the “NRA and candidates each hired shell entities that were actually the same company, and that this is the type of “coordinated communication” subject to campaign finance limits.”
According to CNN, the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia was filed by ‘Giffords’, “a gun-control group run by former Arizona congresswoman and gun-violence survivor Gabby Giffords and the “nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center Action” and alleges “that the FEC has missed a 120-day deadline to act on four complaints brought by the groups.”
The groups are suing the FEC “for allegedly allowing the NRA to violate campaign finance law — including to help Donald Trump,” mentioning the word “”Trump” thirty-five times.”
“The lawsuit also named Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Montana state auditor Matt Rosendale, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate in 2018.”
“Plaintiff’s complaints demonstrate that the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using a complex network of shell corporations to unlawfully coordinate expenditures with the campaigns of at least seven candidates for federal office, thereby making millions of dollars of illegal, unreported, and excessive in-kind contributions, including up to $25 million in illegal contributions to now President Donald J. Trump,” the lawsuit charged.
The lawsuit attempted to explain the scale of the alleged campaign finance violation.
“The illegal contributions to the Trump campaign alone are up to 9,259 times the limit set by Congress. Yet the Commission has taken no action on Plaintiff’s complaints,” the lawsuit said. “In light of this unlawful and unreasonable delay, Plaintiff files this action to compel the FEC to comply with its statutory duty to act.”
The lawsuit alleges “a ‘shell company’ was created to bypass campaign finance laws.”
Open Secrets reported that in 2016, the NRA spent $50.2 million on Trump and six Republican candidates “or 96 percent of its total outside spending, into these races, and lost only one – ” the seat left open by Harry Reid.
But it is the spending on Trump’s campaign that has drawn the most “intense scrutiny” “according to a tally by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics” that added up to more then $30 million directed towards the Trump campaign, alleging “a “complicated scheme to coordinate its spending” with candidates “while taking steps to conceal its coordination.””
The disclosures that television stations file with the Federal Communications Commission show that four individuals who placed pro-Trump ads for the NRA’s political arm also placed ads for Trump’s presidential campaign, the lawsuit said.
The individuals worked for either Red Eagle Media, which placed NRA-related ads, or American Media & Advocacy Group, which handled the Trump campaign’s ads. Both firms share an Alexandria, Virginia, address and are affiliated with a third company, National Media Research, Planning and Placement, according to the lawsuit.
Trevor Potter, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission and the Campaign Legal Center’s president, said that if the NRA’s media buyers coordinated their strategy with candidates’ campaigns, that would amount to excessive in-kind campaign contributions. The legal center is working as a counsel in the case, alongside Giffords’ lawyers.
It’s not unheard-of for a single vendor to handle the advertising for both an outside group and a candidate. But to avoid running afoul of federal regulations, companies erect “firewalls” to prevent information flowing between a candidate and the outside group.CNN
Since 2014, the NRA-PVF and the NRA-ILA have made millions of dollars in excessive, corporate, and unreported contributions to candidates for federal offices, including Thom Tillis, Tom Cotton, and Cory Gardner in 2014, Ron Johnson and Donald Trump in 2016, and Matt Rosendale and Josh Hawley in 2018. In what appears to be a deliberate effort to circumvent the Commission’s common vendor coordination rules, the NRA coordinated political ad spending and placement with these candidates’ campaigns using a network of shell corporations, effectively evading federal contribution limits and shielding millions of dollars of political spending from public and government scrutiny in violation of FECA. In so doing, the NRA engaged in two complex schemes. The graphic below illustrates how these schemes worked from the 2016 and 2018 cycles:
By coordinating their advertising strategy in this manner, the NRA-PVF and the NRA-ILA have made up to $35 million in contributions to candidate campaigns since the 2014 election, in excess of the contribution limits, in violation of the source restrictions, and without the disclosure required under federal law. This includes up to $25 million in coordinated, illegal contributions to the Trump campaign in 2016.
Taken together, these facts demonstrate an elaborate scheme for the NRA to unlawfully coordinate with the candidates it supports for federal office, including Donald J. Trump, Thom Tillis, Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton, Ron Johnson, Matt Rosendale, and Josh Hawley, while evading detection of its violations of federal law concerning the coordination of advertising communications through common vendors.
NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told CNN in statement, “We scrupulously follow the law … This latest effort by Giffords and the Campaign Legal Center is a frivolous lawsuit based on a frivolous complaint.”
The FEC declined to comment to CNN, citing it is agency policy not comment on on-going litigation.
“The Trump campaign also declined to comment.”
The FEC is a six-member board with two vacancies at present. According to the rules “initiating an FEC investigation – or any significant action – requires four FEC commissioners to vote to approve the move.”
Partisan gridlock has been building for years and resulted in the agency deadlocking on nearly a third of its major cases in 2016 — up significantly from a decade earlier, according to an analysis by a former FEC chairwoman, Ann Ravel. At the end of 2018, the agency had 329 pending cases, including several related to possible violations that occurred during the 2016 election, according to Ellen Weintraub, the commission’s current chairwoman. That’s up from 100 open cases in 2010, she said.
“The court filing precedes Trump’s address Friday to the NRA’s annual convention in Indianapolis.”