(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) are seeking information from the National Rifle Association (NRA) regarding allegations that the NRA violated campaign finance laws by coordinating communications with the Trump Campaign and several campaigns for Republican Senate candidates. Multiple media reports have raised questions about the NRA’s relationships with contractors and shell companies that purchased political ads.
The NRA is named in four pending complaints to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alleging campaign finance law violations. In their letter to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, the Members seek information regarding the NRA’s relationship with media consulting firms that also worked for the Trump Campaign and other Republican candidates.
Raskin and Whitehouse are also pressing for information from five of the media consulting firms named in these reports: OnMessage, Inc. (On Message); Starboard Strategic, Inc. (Starboard); Red Eagle Group (Red Eagle); American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG); and National Media, Research, Planning, and Placement (National Media).
According to Politico, OnMessage, a prominent consulting firm that’s worked with major Republican candidates, established Starboard as a shell entity meant to disguise the fact that individuals working to direct campaign strategies and advertisements for Senate candidates were also coordinating “independent” expenditures by the NRA, Starboard’s only client.
In letters to OnMessage and Starboard, Raskin and Whitehouse explained: “Because a payment for a coordinated communication is an in-kind contribution to a candidate, the NRA may have violated contribution limits under the Federal Election Campaign Act by making coordinated communications in excess of applicable contribution caps through Starboard and OnMessage.”
Additional reporting suggests that that Red Eagle, AMAG, and National Media are functionally identical entities, organized in a way that allowed the NRA to coordinate “independent” expenditures with the Trump Campaign.
In their letters, the Members wrote: “Given the lack of separation between Red Eagle, AMAG, and National Media and the fact that the very same employees authorized pro-Trump ‘independent’ expenditures for the NRA and advertisements for the Trump Campaign, we are concerned that Red Eagle, AMAG, and National Media lacked the proper firewalls to prevent illegal coordination between an independent expenditure group and a campaign.”
John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety, also expressed concern: "With each passing day, the NRA’s silence on questions of alleged shell companies and shady political contributions grows louder and louder. Congress is right to demand answers from the NRA on behalf of the American people, and we applaud Senator Whitehouse and Representative Raskin for leading the charge."
The Members have requested responses to their inquiries no later than March 6, 2019.