Documents Appear to Show That The NRA & Donald Trump Violated Campaign Coordination Law
Documents unearthed by Mother Jones point to illegal campaign coordination between President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association. The documents come from the 2016 election and show that Trump and the NRA used the same consultants during ad blitzes leading up to the election.
According to Mother Jones, the NRA and Trump’s campaign both purchased ad blitzes targeting the same demographic in Norfolk, Virginia the week before the election. While it appears at first that they used different media strategy firms, that might not actually be the case.
The NRA used a firm called Red Eagle Media, while the Trump campaign used the American Media & Advocacy Group. Both are closely connected to conservative media-consulting firm National Media Research, Planning and Placement.
In fact, The Trace points out that both groups’ ad buys were authorized by the same person. That person was National Media’s chief financial officer, Jon Ferrell.
Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the FEC, pointed out to Mother Jones that “this is very strong evidence, if not proof, of illegal coordination.” Noble added, “This is the heat of the general election, and the same person is acting as an agent for the NRA and the Trump campaign.”
It appears this ad blitz wasn’t the only time the two groups appear to coordinate their messages. National Media, through Red Eagle and AMAG, completed ad buys for both groups that appeared to coordinate and/or enhance each other.
The potential coordination would violate election laws. While the NRA could spend as much money as it wanted on behalf of Trump in 2016, an independent group and a campaign are not allowed to share election-related information. If they coordinate, then the group’s expenditures don’t qualify as independent.
In that case, they’re subjected to the $5,000 cap. The NRA spent $30 million to support Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.
The same law applies if an outside group and a candidate use the same vendor. In this case, staffers working for each group can’t share information with each other. The fact that Jon Ferrell signed both ad buys suggests that National Media violated this law. Ferrell isn’t the only National Media employee named in documents filed by both the NRA and the Trump campaign.
The Trace identified at least four other current or former National Media employees who are named as representatives of both groups. These people include Kristy Kovatch, a senior buyer for National Media; Ben Angle, another National Media employee; and Caroline Kowalski, who left National Media in 2017.