NRA Used Shell Company to Unlawfully Coordinate With Four U.S. Senate Candidates, Complaint Alleges
WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that the National Rifle Association (NRA) violated federal law by using a common vendor to coordinate illegally with four U.S. Senate campaigns.
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. Politico Magazine reported, however, that a consulting firm set up a shell corporation for the apparent purpose of helping the NRA evade these rules.
As a result, the NRA may have made millions in illegal and excessive in-kind contributions.
“There is substantial evidence that the NRA funneled millions through a shell corporation to unlawfully coordinate with candidates it was backing,” said Brendan Fischer, director, federal reform at CLC. “The NRA using inside information about a candidate’s strategy to create ‘independent’ ads supporting him creates an unfair advantage, and it violates the law. According to the Supreme Court, 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.”
Politico uncovered that the directors at OnMessage – a powerhouse GOP consulting firm – created a shell corporation called Starboard, located at the same address, and which appears indistinguishable from its parent company. The NRA’s lobbying arm and PAC contracted with Starboard to create ads supporting U.S. Senate candidates Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner, and Thom Tillis in 2014, and Ron Johnson in 2016; those candidates, in turn, hired OnMessage. The NRA, which is effectively Starboard’s only client, consistently listed Starboard’s address as that of OnMessage, and OnMessage has repeatedly taken credit for advertisements that the NRA paid Starboard to produce.