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Evidence Emerges That NRA, GOP Candidates Illegally Coordinated Ads in High-Profile Senate Races

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On Friday, Mother Jones shared a detailed report on how the National Rifle Association appears to have illegally coordinated its political advertisements with at least three Republicans who recently ran in key US Senate races.

Federal Communications Commission documents reveal that the same media consultant who signed off on the NRA’s ad campaigns in Missouri and Montana in 2018 and North Carolina in 2016 in support of Republican Senate hopefuls Josh Hawley, Matt Rosendale and Richard Burr also worked with the candidates themselves. This violates laws put in place to keep candidates and independent groups from coordinating their political campaigns. Candidates and independent groups are allowed to use the same vendors, but the Federal Election Commission bars the company’s staff from sharing information.

The media company named in the article—National Media Research, Planning and Placement—was also recently implicated in a December 2018 report from The Trace detailing how the NRA synchronized their political strategy with the Trump campaign’s efforts in 2016. The man whose signature authorized ad purchases on the behalf of both the NRA and the U.S. Senate candidates’ campaigns in at least 10 instances is the same one involved in the Trump report: National Media chief financial officer Jon Ferrell.

Ferrell signed off on ads for the NRA in support of their chosen Senate candidates. These ads, for Hawley’s 2018 Senate race, Rosendale’s 2018 Senate bid and Burr’s 2016 Senate run, were purchased for the NRA by Red Eagle Media. Red Eagle is the name used by National Media that corporate records say is “assumed or fictitious.” Simultaneously, Ferrell’s signature is found on paperwork purchasing ads on the behalf of the GOP candidates’ campaigns, set to run on the same TV stations as those bought by the NRA. In the cases of Rosendale and Hawley’s bids, their ads were bought by a supposedly separate entity, American Media & Advocacy Group. However, Mother Jones notes that AMAG “does not appear to have any employees or contacts independent of National Media.” Burr, on the other hand, hired National Media outright. In all three Senate races, though, Ferrell included a handwritten addendum that clarified he was working on the behalf of the campaigns.

Larry Noble, who served as the general counsel of the FEC from 1987 to 2000, told Mother Jones of the situation, “All evidence points to coordination. It’s hard to understand how you’d have the same person authorizing placements for the NRA and the candidate and it not be coordination.”

Noble later added, “What this reflects is the FEC’s lack of enforcement and the lack of respect that the NRA and the vendor are showing toward the FEC and the law. You do this if you think no one is going to investigate.”

Ann Ravel, who served on the FEC from 2013 to 2017, likewise noted the stark blatancy of the NRA’s efforts, telling Mother Jones: “There is so much documentary evidence that it wouldn’t even require a lengthy investigation. Some cases are hard to prove, but this, on its face, is so obvious. I would not think that there is any basis for not at least investigating the matter.”

All in all, this adds up to a load of right-wing political fuckery that, frankly, feels almost insulting in just how obvious they were in their efforts to get gun nuts elected. Did those involved in this report really think no one would connect the dots?

Currently, there are two complaints before the FEC focusing on the NRA’s employment of National Media and its affiliated bodies to coordinate with the Trump and Hawley campaigns. These enforcement matters will remain confidential until resolved, so it is unknown if the NRA has formally acknowledged the complaints.

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