CLC, Giffords Call on FEC to Investigate NRA Coordination with Rosendale Campaign


Audio recording of Rosendale provides evidence he knew and assented to NRA’s planned spending

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association and Montana U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale violated federal campaign finance law by illegally coordinating more than $400,000 in spending to influence the 2018 midterm elections. The complaint is co-signed by Giffords, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to advocate for policies to reduce gun violence.

According to an audio recording of a July 2018 event obtained by The Daily Beast, Rosendale responded to a question about “outside groups spending on your behalf” by saying the NRA-ILA’s political director, Chris Cox, had told him that the group would be spending money in his race; Rosendale then accurately described both the content of the NRA’s ads and their timing, even though the ads had not yet been aired and would not be run until weeks later. According to Federal Election Commission filings, the NRA’s lobbying arm spent over $400,000 on TV ads in early September expressly advocating against Rosendale’s opponent, Sen. Jon Tester because of his Supreme Court vote. Under federal law, an advertisement is coordinated if an outside groups privately informs a candidate about its planned spending and the candidate assents.

“The recording indicates that a top NRA official told Rosendale the NRA would be spending in the Montana race, described the content of the ads and the timing, and Rosendale assented to that suggestion. This constitutes coordination under federal law,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform program at CLC. “Although FEC inaction in recent years has helped open a number of loopholes allowing outside groups to work closely with candidates, the conduct here crosses a legal line. Perhaps Rosendale and the NRA felt comfortable pushing the legal envelope because they had little concern that the FEC would do anything about it – which is why it is crucial that the agency take action and uphold the law.”

“As the number of brazen violations of campaign finance law continues to grow, it's clear the NRA's main priority is advancing a radical agenda that a majority of Americans oppose,” said David Pucino, staff attorney at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “They will do anything to force that agenda on the American people, even if it means undermining our democracy. It has been a long time since the NRA has cared about law and order. The FEC must investigate these apparent violations and pursue all appropriate sanctions.”

Separately, the complaint alleges that both the NRA and Rosendale’s campaign unlawfully coordinated through the use of a common vendor. CLC and Giffords previously filed a complaint against the NRA for using an apparent shell company to coordinate its spending with four U.S. senate candidates in the 2014 and 2016 elections.