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Giffords Sues the National Rifle Association for Violating Campaign Finance Laws

The lawsuit alleges the NRA illegally coordinated expenditures with several federal candidates, funneling about $35 million in illegal campaign contributions to Senate and presidential races.

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Giffords filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against the NRA for violations of campaign finance laws dating back to 2014. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Giffords by Campaign Legal Center Action, alleges that the NRA engaged in a broad pattern of activity that violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. Since 2014, the NRA has made as much as $35 million in unlawful, excessive, and unreported in-kind campaign contributions to seven federal candidates, including candidates for US Senate in 2014, 2016, and 2018, and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. 

“The NRA has long acted like it is above the law, and it has done so flagrantly in the last several election cycles. This lawsuit demonstrates that the NRA broke the law by illegally coordinating with federal campaigns and funneling millions of dollars to candidates who supported their extremist, deadly agenda,” said David Pucino, Giffords Law Center Senior Staff Attorney. “We are suing the NRA to finally hold them accountable for actions that corrupted politicians and undermined our democracy.” 

“Campaign finance law prohibits groups like the NRA from buying influence over elected officials by coordinating spending with those candidates’ campaigns. When special interests like the NRA secretly collude with candidates, this illegal coordination corrupts our election process and deprives voters of their right to know who is spending to influence their vote,” said Molly Danahy, Senior Legal Counsel for Litigation at Campaign Legal Center Action. “The FEC had the chance to do its job by taking action against the NRA for this massive coordination scheme, but as usual, the FEC failed to enforce the law. Therefore, we are compelled to take legal action to crack down on secret spending.”

Giffords filed a series of complaints in 2018 to alert the Federal Election Commission that the NRA was engaged in an unlawful scheme that violated federal election law. When the FEC did nothing, Giffords, represented by Campaign Legal Center Action, took the Commission to court. On September 30, the US District Court in Washington issued an order compelling the FEC to act on the complaints within 30 days. The FEC once again failed to do its job, and after 30 days elapsed, the Court ruled that Giffords could sue the NRA directly for violations of federal campaign finance law. 

The lawsuit seeks several forms of relief, including an order preventing the NRA from violating the law in future elections, and a penalty equal to the amount of money unlawfully spent, which the NRA would pay to the US treasury—potentially as much as $35 million. A copy of the complaint is available here.

The races at the heart of the lawsuit include the following (with the candidate receiving the NRA’s support in bold):

  • 2014: Thom Tillis in the race for Senate in North Carolina (vs. Kay Hagan); Tom Cotton in the race for Senate in Arkansas (vs. Mark Pryor); Cory Gardner in the race for Senate in Colorado (vs. Mark Udall)
  • 2016: Ron Johnson in the race for Senate in Wisconsin (vs. Russ Feingold); Donald Trump in the presidential race (vs. Hillary Clinton)
  • 2018: Josh Hawley in the race for Senate in Missouri (vs. Claire McCaskill); Matt Rosendale in the race for Senate in Montana (vs. Jon Tester)


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