December 7, 2018 — Giffords Law Center and Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging illegal coordination between the Trump campaign and the National Rifle Association (NRA). During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA’s political and lobbying arms spent over $25 million supporting Trump, mostly for television advertising, and distributed and placed those advertisements using the same network of consulting firms that placed the Trump campaign’s own advertisements.
Giffords Law Center and CLC’s October complaint against the NRA and then-U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley first unearthed this particular trio of shell companies that used these coordination schemes. In fact, in the final stretch of the 2016 election, the same four strategists at the media consulting firm National Media repeatedly placed ads on behalf of both the NRA and Trump campaign, in some cases on the same stations or programs, to advance a unified strategy. This runs afoul of the FEC’s coordination rules.
Drawing on new investigative reporting by The Trace / Mother Jones, today’s complaint cites dozens of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records documenting the coordinated effort.
“If reports are true that the NRA’s leadership engaged in blatant illegal campaign coordination, this news would not only be an insult to NRA members but a serious threat to the integrity of the presidential election, said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords. “The NRA’s executives owe their members and all Americans answers to the serious questions that have been raised by these ongoing investigations. We’re glad to partner with CLC to demand that the FEC take action on this evidently egregious flouting of our nation’s campaign finance laws.”
“This is some of the most compelling evidence we’ve ever seen of illegal coordination The NRA can legally make unlimited expenditures to support the Trump campaign only if the organizations are completely independent. But if the same people buying ads for the Trump campaign are also placing the NRA’s pro-Trump ads, then the NRA’s spending is not at all independent,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform program at CLC. “The NRA and Trump campaign might claim that their media buyers established firewalls, but it is impossible for an employee to create a firewall in his or her brain.”
The FEC regulates the use of common vendors for media placement because the targeting of political ads is a critical element of a campaign effort. If the NRA knows about the Trump campaign’s strategy, it can time and target its pro-Trump ads to complement and reinforce the campaign’s own efforts.