Victory! Federal Court Orders FEC to Take Action on NRA Complaint

NRA Executives with President Donald Trump
NRA Executive Director Chris Cox (L) and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre (R) welcome U.S. President Donald Trump (C) onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order, instructing the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to take action within 30 days on long-pending administrative complaints against the National Rifle Association (NRA) for using shell corporations to coordinate campaign spending with federal candidates on Sept. 30, 2021.  

The order follows a 2019 lawsuit filed by Campaign Legal Center Action (CLCA) on behalf of Giffords.  

Campaign finance law allows outside groups like the NRA to make unlimited expenditures supporting candidates — but only if that spending is completely independent of those candidates’ campaigns.  

During the 2014, 2016 and 2018 campaign cycles, the NRA showed flagrant disregard for these rules by using mutual vendors to coordinate expenditures with seven federal candidates, including former President Donald Trump.

Through this scheme, the NRA was able to secretly contribute millions of dollars to candidates, in violation of the contribution limits, and without disclosing its support.    

Giffords filed four complaints with the FEC to address the NRA’s violations. The FEC took no action. In April of 2019, CLC Action filed suit on behalf of Giffords against the FEC in federal court, on the grounds that the FEC had unlawfully delayed in acting on the administrative complaint. 

The failure of the FEC to enforce our campaign finance laws has resulted in an explosion of shady campaign spending. In the two years since CLC filed this lawsuit, our nation experienced the most expensive election in our history, with secret spending — otherwise known as dark money — topping $1 billion

The FEC had the chance to do the right thing by taking action against the NRA for this blatant spending coordination, but it failed to do so. CLC applauds the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for stepping in and compelling them to take action. 

To reduce political corruption, we need a stronger FEC that can enforce campaign finance laws and hold political candidates, groups and donors accountable.

The FEC had a chance to do its job, but it was asleep at the switch. A federal court has now interceded, giving the agency one more chance to prove that it is capable of being the effective watchdog this country needs. 

Brendan is a Senior Communications Manager for Campaign Finance and Ethics issues at CLC.
How CLC's and Gifford's Victory Will Compel the FEC To Take Action