Exclusive: Audio Reveals Potentially Illegal Coordination Between NRA and Montana Senate Hopeful Matt Rosendale
Before the National Rifle Association dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to flip a competitive, Democratic-held Senate seat, the gun-rights group’s chief lobbyist apparently gave the race’s Republican challenger a heads-up. Chris Cox, the top political strategist for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), assured Montana Republican Matt Rosendale that the group would spend heavily to support his bid to unseat Sen. Jon Tester, Rosendale told attendees at a July event in Washington.
“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime,” Rosendale said in response to a question about independent political spenders in the race. “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.’”
Brendan Fischer, the director of Federal Election Commission reform programs for the Campaign Legal Center, said Rosendale’s remarks, together with the eventual ad campaign he alluded to, might satisfy the “three-pronged” legal test for impermissible coordination. The three prongs are payment, content, and conduct. “The payment prong is satisfied because the ads were paid for by somebody other than Rosendale; the content prong is satisfied because the ads expressly advocate against the election of Rosendale’s opponent; and the conduct prong can be satisfied by Rosendale assenting to the request or suggestion of the entity paying for the ad: the NRA,” Fischer said.
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