NRA Doing Campaign-Finance Hijinks, Non-Russia Edition
The National Rifle Association seems to have just maybe coordinated its plans for the Montana campaign for the US Senate with Republican nominee "Maryland" Matt Rosendale, according to reporting from the Daily Beast. An audio recording of Rosendale at a campaign event captured Rosendale answering a question about support from outside groups and saying he'd talked with the political strategist Chris Cox, head of the NRA's lobbying outfit, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. If Rosendale and Cox actually did discuss the NRA's plans for the fall campaign, that would be a violation of campaign finance law, for which Donald Trump would have to issue a pardon, probably. You know he would -- he's big-hearted that way.
Rosendale's comments came in response to an unidentified audience member at a July event in Washington DC, asking, "Have outside groups started spending on your behalf?" He said they had, and mentioned support from the Club for Growth and another group whose name he couldn't recall, then predicted the US Chamber of Commerce would come in with ads, too. As for the NRA, Rosendale said he'd already talked with Chris Cox about helping his campaign:
Rosendale: I fully expect the NRA is going to come in, I think all of that [or is it "them"? -- Dok Z] will be coming in right here, in August sometime.
Questioner: This is a big race for the NRA.
Rosendale: Yeah. The Supreme Court confirmations are big. That's what sent the NRA over the line. Because in '12, with [Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg] they stayed out, they stayed out of Montana. But Chris Cox told me, he's like, "We're going to be in this race."
In 2012, it's worth noting, the NRA seemed perfectly fine with incumbent Democrat Jon Tester, to whom the group had given an "A-" rating, although it didn't endorse either Tester or Rehberg, his Republican opponent. This year, though, the NRA has decided Tester must go, because OMG he voted for Obama's gun-grabbing SCOTUS nominees and opposed Second Amendment Champion Neil Gorsuch. And on September 6 -- not August, but close -- the NRA-ILA announced it would launch a "six-figure" ad buy (turns out to be over $400,000) against Tester, with a typically subtle ad to lead it off: Jon Tester, the guy with the A- rating in 2012 (and a respectable "79 percent" voting record on NRA issues as late as 2015) had suddenly become a two-faced puppet of the evil liberals!
That monster Tester wants to take away your freedom, because the NRA found a guy who'll vote just a teensy bit more the way it likes. And apparently the NRA-ILA's Cox was so excited about working for Rosendale that he told the candidate -- and wouldn't you know it, Rosendale correctly guessed that it was Supreme Court confirmation votes that turned out to be the major issue, what a coincidence! That, of course, is maybe a bit of a sticky wicket from a legal perspective:
[The] NRA-ILA, a 501(c)(4) "dark-money" group, is legally barred from coordinating its ad buys with a federal campaign. As explained by nonprofit tax law attorney Holly Schadler, illegal coordination may occur "if the organization has substantial discussions with the campaign about an expenditure, or if the organization informs the campaign about a planned communication related to the campaign and the campaign signals its agreement with the suggestion to make that communication."
In a perfectly believable reaction to the story, campaign spokesperson Shane Scanlon told the Associated Press Rosendale only meant he'd discussed an NRA endorsement, which if true, would be legal. Of course, that's one hell of an "if."
Scanlon confirmed the voice on the audio recording was Rosendale's, but said the allegation of illegal coordination was a desperate attempt by Tester to keep his seat.
"The only thing this audio proves is that Matt sought the endorsement of the NRA — and we're proud to have it," Scanlon said. "Matt and the NRA have never discussed anything beyond the organization's membership and endorsement process."
Guess they'll stick to that story, though it's a little hard to square with the fact that Rosendale was replying to a question about spending by outside groups: "Have outside groups started spending on your behalf?" Why, yes. Here are some, including the NRA, with which I've had talks about how they want to get in, because of judicial nominations. Uh ... I did say we talked only about an endorsement, right? I mean, don't be silly.
The AP adds the NRA denies any wrongdoing, either:
NRA-ILA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker also denied campaign coordination by her group. "At no time did NRA-ILA discuss any communications or activities beyond our membership with Matt Rosendale or his campaign. Any assertion otherwise is completely false."
Sadly, neither Rosendale not the NRA has said they've coordinated on their replies to the accusation, which would have been a nice way to wrap all this up with a bow on it.
A spokesperson for the Tester campaign, Chris Meagher, said it sure looked like Rosendale was at the least "playing fast and loose with campaign finance laws."
A lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center in DC, Brendan Fischer, had the good sense to notice what Yr Wonkette did, telling the AP
it appeared to him that Rosendale was speaking about NRA spending money on ads in the race, because that was the question he was answering.
"It appeared from the recording that Rosendale was talking about something other than an endorsement," Fischer said. "It creates an inference that the NRA-ILA had suggested what kind of communication it would be running in the Montana Seante race, and Rosendale assented, which would be coordination."
We're sure the Federal Election will get right on an investigation of the Rosendale campaign, because the integrity of the process is of the greatest importance. Or maybe the NRA will release an ad accusing Mexicans of voting while brown, and the chats between Rosendale and Cox will be forgotten. Besides, as any fool can plainly see, the real issue here is Montanans' gun rights, isn't it?
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.