Campaign Legal Center and Giffords Law Center filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission over potential illegal campaign coordination between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and the National Rifle Association.
The complaint is “based on information and belief that” two branches of the NRA “violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.” The two NRA branches named in the complaint are the National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) and the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund (NRA-BVF).
CLC and Giffords’ complaint follows on the heels of yesterday’s story by Mother Jones reporter Mike Spies. The news site brought to light the allegations in a detailed article Thursday morning. CLC Media Strategist Corey Goldstone explained in an email that Friday’s complaint was filed by the CLC and Giffords Law Center. Some of the information was uncovered by Spies and other parts were discovered by the CLC.
According to the filing, the Trump campaign placed ads using marketing firm American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), while the NRA used Red Eagle Media Group. Red Eagle is a trade name for the firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement (National Media). AMAG has the same address as National Media.
In the lead up to the 2016 election, Trump’s campaign and the NRA placed similar ads in the same area. At times, those ads were on the same stations and even during the same programs. The spending appears to be complementary. Documents unearthed by Spies and the CLC show that the same person, Jon Ferrell, signed off on both groups’ ad buys.
According to the CLC’s filing, “there is reason to believe that the NRA-ILA and NRA-PVF made illegal, unreported, and excessive in-kind contributions to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. in the form of coordinated communications.” The coordination violates the FECA’s source prohibitions, reporting requirements, and contribution limits.
Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at CLC, called the documents “some of the most compelling evidence we’ve ever seen of illegal coordination.”
The Campaign Legal Center uncovered the relationship between Red Eagle Media Group and the American Media & Advocacy Group earlier this year. The CLC And Giffords Law Center filed a complaint in October with the Federal Election Commission regarding potential coordination between the NRA and Missouri U.S. Senate Candidate Josh Hawley.
October’s complaint alleges that the NRA used an apparent shell corporation established by Hawley’s campaign consultant Brad Todd to funnel nearly $1 million toward the Senate candidate’s campaign. In at least one instance there, an official at the same company placed Hawley’s and the NRA’s ads on the same stations on the same day.
While researching the complaint against Josh Hawley and the NRA, the CLC uncovered a potential coordination scheme between the NRA and the 2016 Trump campaign. Fischer noted in a statement:
“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.”
In this case, the CLC complaint points out four people who had their hands in ad buys for both the NRA and the Trump campaign. Fischer added, “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 complaint asks the Commission to “seek appropriate sanctions for any and all violations, including civil penalties sufficient to deter future violations.”
Check out the full complaint below.Trump Campaign NRA Complaint