More Illegal Coordination Between NRA and Republican Candidates

More Illegal Coordination Between NRA and Republican Candidates January 14, 2019

We’ve already seen evidence that the NRA engaged in illegal coordination of its third-party ad buys on behalf of Donald Trump with his campaign in 2016. Now we have clear evidence that they did the same thing with other Republican candidates for office and they aren’t even trying to hide it.

The National Rifle Association appears to have illegally coordinated its political advertising with Republican candidates in at least three recent high-profile Senate races, according to Federal Communications Commission records. In Senate races in Missouri and Montana in 2018, and North Carolina in 2016, the gun group’s advertising blitzes on behalf of GOP candidates Josh Hawley, Matt Rosendale, and Richard Burr were authorized by the very same media consultancy that the candidates themselves used — an apparent violation of laws designed to prevent independent groups from synchronizing their efforts with political campaigns.

In December, The Trace and Mother Jones reported on a similar pattern of coordination between the NRA and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In that case, Trump and the NRA hired affiliates of the same company — National Media Research, Planning and Placement — to direct their ad spending. Employees of that firm, operating under different corporate identities, placed ads for both Trump and the NRA on television stations across the country, with the apparent goal of reinforcing each other’s message.

Representatives of National Media, operating under the name Red Eagle Media, also bought ads on behalf of the NRA in support of some of the group’s preferred Senate candidates, and simultaneously bought ads for those Senate candidates while acting as a supposedly separate entity called American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG). In at least 10 instances across the Missouri, Montana, and North Carolina races, FCC records show that ad purchases for both the NRA and the Senate campaigns were authorized by National Media’s chief financial officer, Jon Ferrell.

The same companies they used to do the same thing with the Trump campaign. It is legal for third-party groups to pay for ads to support a candidate, but they are forbidden from coordinating those ad buys with the campaigns themselves. It goes on anyway, of course, but I’ve never seen it this blatant before. They made it remarkably easy to get caught, which speaks to their confidence that they could get away with it even if they were caught.

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