The National Rifle Association spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to flip a competitive Senate seat in Montana, now the organization is being accused of “impermissible coordination.”
An exclusive report from The Daily Beast reveals in a recently obtained audio clip, that NRA political strategist Chris Cox reached out to Montana Republican Matt Rosendale to inform him of an upcoming spend campaign that would help unseat Senator Jon Tester. Cox revealed the NRA’s plans at a Washington event in July.
When asked about independent political spending in the race, Rosendale had this to say:
“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime… The Supreme Court confirmations are big. That’s what sent the NRA over the line. Because in ’12, with [Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg] they stayed out, they stayed out of Montana. But Chris Cox told me, he’s like, ‘We’re going to be in this race.’”
His timing was off but the NRA did eventually dump $400,000 on ads that spoke precisely to Supreme Court Nominations.
Records filed on Sept. 7 with the Federal Elections Commission and revealed by the Great Falls Tribune have “the group reporting a total spend of $383,196 for TV advertising and $21,300 for production costs to oppose Tester. The NRA made its announcement about the ad Sept. 6.”
As expected, Chris Cox has earned an “A” rating from the NRA — placing him squarely in the “thoughts and prayers” region of the mass shootings political spectrum.
What’s The Issue?
The NRA-ILA, a 501(c)(4) “dark money” group, is “legally barred from coordinating its ad buys with a federal campaign,” The Daily Beast notes.
Under current campaign rules, the agency is not allowed to hold substantial discussions with a campaign about an expenditure and they are not allowed to receive confirmation back about their plans from a campaign leader. Doing so would show direct coordination between the federal campaign and the NRA.
The NRA may very well have violated the “three-pronged” legal test for impermissible coordination. The three prongs include “payment, content, and conduct.”
The big question is whether Rosendale signed off on Cox’s pledge in any way — a fact that is still unclear. Rosendale didn’t mention with reply to Cox which could allow him to claim that no consent occurred.
Other Issues At The NRA
The FEC recently received a complaint about the NRA illegally coordinating with various federal campaigns through a common vendor called Starboard Strategic. The company is closely related to OnMessage, a company that works on the same campaigns as the NRA. The two company’s share office space and some employees.
The agency has also been accused of funneling millions of dollars from Russian assets into Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. The NRA spent $30 million to help get Donald Trump elected.
You can read more about the NRA’s potentially illegal operations with the Montana election HERE.
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.