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Trump campaign accused of illegally coordinating political ads with NRA: report

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President Donald Trump speaking at the annual NRA convention in 2019. (Screenshot/YouTube)

On Saturday, The Daily Beast and The Trace reported on evidence of a potentially illegal campaign arrangement between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the NRA.

“The NRA and the Trump campaign placed … ads through two companies that appear separate on paper, but reporting by The Trace indicates they are affiliates of National Media Research, Planning and Placement, an influential conservative firm in Alexandria, Virginia,” wrote Kevin Dugan. “We identified four National Media employees whose names or signatures also appear on recent documents related to the shell companies. In fact, the three firms are so closely linked that they share a phone number. Earlier reporting by The Trace showed that National Media was at the center of a similar ad-buying strategy in 2016.”

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As one example of how this scheme worked, Dugan explored a recent NRA ad depicting a woman fighting off carjackers with a gun, that implied Biden would have let her be murdered.

“The ominous 30-second spot, called ‘Carjack,’ aired more than 10,000 times in swing districts across Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin during a two-week period in late August and early September. The NRA paid more than $4.1 million for the ad to run during shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The View,” wrote Dugan. “During that time, re-election ads for President Donald Trump that had been playing as early as May effectively stopped. In some cases, the president’s ads—which became less frequent on all national airwaves during this period—started up again days after the NRA’s ad buy ended.”

“Former high-ranking Federal Election Commission (FEC) members and government watchdogs told The Trace that the overlapping personnel, and the ads’ seemingly choreographed timing, suggest an arrangement that violates campaign-finance laws,” wrote Dugan. “The FEC, which oversees political advertising, bars candidates’ campaigns from working in concert with independent groups—such as, in this case, the NRA. If these campaigns did in fact coordinate, millions of dollars in spending could count as in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign, and the firms could face civil fines and a possible criminal referral to the Justice Department.”

This is not the only accusation of illegal campaign finance schemes from the NRA — a recent FEC lawsuit alleged that the NRA made an in-kind contribution to President Donald Trump’s campaign of nearly 10,000 times the legal limit.

All of this comes as New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing to dissolve the NRA, alleging a years-long fraud scheme in which its executives skimmed money from the organization’s nonprofit mission for their own personal use.

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