CLC Flags NRA Coordination with Missouri Senate Campaign
WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley violated federal campaign finance law by illegally coordinating nearly $1 million in spending.
The evidence indicates that the NRA routed nearly $1 million in spending supporting Hawley’s campaign through an apparent shell corporation established by Hawley’s top campaign consultant. Additionally, in at least one instance, an official at the same media company placed the NRA’s pro-Hawley ads and the Hawley campaign’s own ads on the same stations and on the same day.
“The evidence indicates that the NRA routed nearly $1 million through shell corporations to unlawfully coordinate with the Hawley campaign,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform program at CLC. “Groups like the NRA can only make unlimited expenditures if they are independent of the candidates they support, and it falls to the FEC to enforce the laws that preserve that independence and prevent corruption.”
“The NRA is at it again,” said David Pucino, a staff attorney at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “As these apparent campaign finance violations accumulate, one has to wonder why the NRA continues to use these tactics. Maybe it’s because they know that a majority of Americans oppose their radical agenda. Maybe they just don’t care about the rule of law. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that the FEC must investigate.”
Campaign finance law prohibits coordination between candidates and outside groups like the NRA. In order to preserve their independence, FEC rules limit how a vendor may work for both a candidate and an outside group supporting that candidate, to prevent the vendor from being used as a conduit for coordination.
Earlier this year, Politico Magazine uncovered that the directors at OnMessage – a consulting firm led by Hawley’s campaign consultant, Brad Todd – created a shell corporation called Starboard, located at the same address, and which appears indistinguishable from its parent company. Candidates would then hire OnMessage, and the NRA would contract with Starboard to create ads supporting those candidates. Hawley’s top consultant, Todd, is on the board of both OnMessage and Starboard.
In addition to the NRA and Hawley campaign using OnMessage/Starboard to create advertisements, the NRA and Hawley also appear to be using a shared set of vendors to place those advertisements, providing further evidence of coordination. According to FEC and FCC records, the NRA’s pro-Hawley communications were distributed and placed by employees of the firm “National Media” under a trade name, while the Hawley campaign placed its own ads using National Media or an affiliate. In at least one instance, the same National Media official placed advertisements on behalf of both the NRA and Josh Hawley for Senate on the same stations and on the same day.