Congress Launches Investigation Into NRA's Allegedly Illegal Political Donations

Executive vice president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre.Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr

Congress is examining whether the NRA made “illegal, excessive, and unreported in-kind donations” to Trump and others.

The Trace has reported that the National Rifle Association is facing a congressional inquiry. Executive vice president of the NRA Wayne LaPierre is being asked to release internal documents which would reveal if the NRA made “illegal, excessive, and unreported in-kind donations” to the campaigns of President Trump and other GOP Senate candidates.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI.), and Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD.) are leasing the probe, which is based by investigative reports and evidence found by The Trace that points to the NRA using shell companies to evade campaign donation rules.

“The evidence shows the NRA is moving money through a complex web of shell organizations to avoid campaign finance rules and boost candidates willing to carry their water,” Whitehouse told The Trace. “And if the NRA can weave such a web, so can Vladimir Putin and others trying to undermine our democracy. We need the truth about this scheme or else special interests like the gun lobby or foreign interests like Russia can flaunt the law and erode the integrity of our elections.”

Whitehouse and Raskin are asking for documents from LaPierre and five other vendors that have either worked for the NRA or for candidates: OnMEssage; Red Eagle Media; Starboard Strategies Inc.; American Media & Advocacy Group; and National Media Research, Planning, and Placement.

The NRA used Starboard Strategic, a media strategy firm that does not seem to actually exist, to give tens of million of campaign ad dollars during the 2014 election. The NRA has continued to use Starboard to provide “independent” support for many Republican senatorial campaigns which were using OnMessage as an ad vendor. OnMessage and Starboard appear to be the same company- they have the same address and the same officers.

The Trace also found that the NRA’s ads for Trump in 2016 were made by employees of the same firm that the Trump campaign used. Therefore, the same strategists bought ads for Trump and the NRA at the same time, which is a violation of coordination rules. According to the Federal Communication Commission, the NRA spent millions of dollars running ads through Red Eagle Media, which is actually a fake business name for National Media Research, Planning and Placement. Trump was running his ads through American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), which is an affiliate of National Media.

“When outside spenders coordinate their campaign buys, strategies and messages with political candidates, their expenditures become illegal campaign contributions,” Raskin told The Trace. “Senator Whitehouse and I are trying to determine whether there was a deliberate effort by the NRA and its agents to coordinate with the Trump campaign and other candidates. This matter goes to the integrity of the 2016 election and Congress deserves answers.”