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Josh Hawley Sued For Accepting Over $1M in Illegal Campaign Expenses

Josh Hawley Sued For Accepting Over $1M in Illegal Campaign Expenses

The Giffords gun safety organization has sued the National Rifle Association and the campaigns of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana, alleging the group used shell corporations to improperly aid the Republican lawmakers in 2018. The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance group, is representing Giffords, which was founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), a survivor of a horrific shooting, in part to counter the NRA’s influence in national politics.

The NRA has also been found to have received millions of dollars from Russia funds that they are alleged to have funneled into multiple GOP campaigns in 2016 and 2020.

The Giffords suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia this week, alleges two NRA affiliates made up to $35 million in illegal campaign contributions in the form of coordinated communications efforts to the GOP Senate campaigns of Hawley, Rosendale, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, as well as Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Although the suit only names Hawley and Rosendale, other matters concerning the other candidates named in the suit could be proceeding at the Federal Election Commission, the federal regulator for campaign finance violations. The FEC keeps proceedings secret while they are ongoing.

Under a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, outside groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts on political speech, including advertisements in favor of candidates. But federal campaign finance rules require such advertisements to be commissioned without coordinating with campaigns. Coordinated messaging counts as an in-kind contribution. The Giffords suit accuses the NRA and the campaigns of using the same political messaging firms to disguise coordinated campaign activity as independent advertising.

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The suit says Rosendale accepted up to $383,196 in coordinated expenditures. Hawley accepted up to $973,196, the suit says. The bulk of the illegal expenditures—$25 million of the $35 million total alleged—went to Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to the suit.

A September court order gave the agency 30 days to act. If the agency did not act, Giffords would be allowed under that order to bring the matter to civil court. The FEC has not acted since that court order.

[This is a continuing and developing story, please check back for updates]

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