On Wednesday, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords filed a lawsuit with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for allowing the National Rifle Association to donate “illegal, unreported, and excessive in-kind contributions, including up to $25 million in illegal contributions to now President Donald J. Trump,” court documents reveal.
The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that large contributions to political campaigns pose huge risks of corruption and has continuously mandated regulations on the maximum direct donation amount to candidates. During the 2016 election, the limit was $2,700. But, under the assumption that independent spending poses a much lower risk of corruption, the Supreme Court has allowed for “unlimited independent political spending by groups like the NRA.”
However, coordinated expenditures, such as those executed by the organization, are still subject to contribution limits “because they are ‘as useful to the candidate as cash.’” As a result, the NRA Giffords argues, has given Trump’s campaign 9,259 times the amount that Congress legally allows. Giffords has filed the lawsuit because the FEC has failed to act upon the NRA’s violations, despite four separate complaints she filed with the commission.
The 2016 Trump campaign, she notes, is not the first instance in which the NRA has acted upon “a deliberate effort to circumvent the Commission’s common vendor coordination rules.” The powerful organization has used a “network of shell corporations” to evade contribution laws and hide “millions of dollars of political spending from public and government scrutiny in violation of FECA.”