Whitehouse, Raskin Press NRA Law Firm on Possible Campaign Finance Violations
(Washington, D.C.) – In a letter today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) called on the law firm representing the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its front groups to release documents related to potential violations of campaign finance law. The members sent a letter to the NRA and six related groups in February raising concerns with possible illegal coordination of independent expenditures with political campaigns. The Virginia law firm Holtzman, Vogel, Josefiak, Torchinsky responded on behalf of the NRA and all six subsidiaries, suggesting an even closer relationship between the groups than previously understood. Today, the members pushed back on the law firm’s refusal to provide the requested information, noting that one firm was coordinating the response for all those involved.
“Given the nature of the claims, we find it of interest that the six legally distinct entities that received our letters appear to be coordinating their response through common counsel,” Whitehouse and Raskin note.
Whitehouse and Raskin’s February letter sought information from the NRA regarding allegations that the NRA violated campaign finance laws by coordinating communications with the Trump Campaign and several Republican congressional campaigns. Multiple media reports raised questions about the NRA’s relationships with contractors and shell companies that purchased political ads. The lawmakers also pressed for information from five of the media consulting firms named in these reports: OnMessage, Inc.; Starboard Strategic, Inc.; Red Eagle Group; American Media & Advocacy Group; and National Media, Research, Planning, and Placement.
Without citing to any legal authority, the NRA and its media organizations refused to release any information about their compliance with campaign finance laws.
In today’s letter, Whitehouse and Raskin pushed the law firm to release the information and raised new concerns about additional ad-buying activity by the NRA and Trump campaign as recent as May of this year. The NRA made the purchases through the firm Harris Sikes Media LLC, which appears to be closely related to the other media organizations.
“We are . . . concerned by additional reports published since our last letter indicating similar potentially illegal coordination has continued since the 2016 election,” Whitehouse and Raskin write. “As recently as May 2019, the Trump 2020 presidential campaign made several payments to an entity called Harris Sikes Media LLC . . . for placement of radio ads. A Harris Sikes employee has described the firm as a ‘“firewall entity” used . . . to distance teams of buyers from campaigns so there is no conflict.’ The firewall does not appear to be effective. Opensecrets reports, ‘the Trump campaign and NRA made ad buys at the same local radio station within days of each other in FCC filings that list the same individual ad buyers at different National Media affiliates, including Harris Sikes Media.’”
A PDF copy of the Members' letter is available here.