O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) – A federal lawsuit accuses the National Rifle Association of violating campaign funding laws by using grenade companies to illegally funnel up to $ 35 million to Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri and others.
The Campaign Legal Center filed the lawsuit in Washington on Tuesday on behalf of Giffords, a nonprofit gun control organization founded by the former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. It accuses the NRA of practices dating back to 2014 “for circumventing campaign funding provisions by using a number of shell companies to illegally but covertly coordinate advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office.”
The trial mentions the defendants Hawley and the U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana, but the text of the lawsuit also accuses the NRA of “excessive and unreported contributions in kind” to Trump and Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina campaigns, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and former Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. The contributions to Rosendale were during his failed Senate campaign in 2018, according to the trial.
The Trump campaign in 2016 received up to $ 25 million as part of the scheme, the lawsuit states.
Two NRA affiliates – the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund and the National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action – are accused of coordinating with GOP candidates to use the same staff and vendors for campaign ads.
“The Campaign Funding Act prohibits groups like the NRA from buying influence over elected officials by coordinating spending with these candidates’ campaigns,” Campaign Legal Center attorney Molly Danahy said in a press release. “When special interests like the NRA secretly collaborate with candidates, this illegal coordination corrupts our electoral process and deprives voters of their right to know who is using to influence their vote.”
The NRA responded on Thursday with a statement calling the trial “another deliberate abuse of the public by our opponents – which will stop at nothing in their pursuit of their anti-freedom agenda. This latest act is as misunderstood as it is transparent. It is Suffice it to say that the NRA has full confidence in its political activities and remains eager to set the record straight. “
Emails left with Trump, Hawley, Rosendale and others quoted in the trial were not immediately returned.
Giffords represented the 8th District of Arizona from 2007 to 2012 when she withdrew after sustaining a brain injury during a 2011 mass shooting in her district that killed six people.
The Campaign Legal Center said the Giffords organization first presented the allegations against the NRA in 2018 when it filed a series of complaints with the Federal Election Commission. The center said Giffords sued after the FEC failed to act.
The lawsuit seeks an order preventing the NRA from committing similar violations in future elections, and asks the court to demand that the NRA pay a fine equal to the amount allegedly used illegally – up to $ 35 million.
The lawsuit accuses the NRA of illegally using funds to help the Tillis, Cotton and Gardner campaigns in the 2014 election, the Johnson and Trump campaigns in 2016 and the Hawley and Rosendale campaigns in 2018.
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