NRA Illegally Funneled Millions To Trump And Other Republicans, Lawsuit Alleges

The gun control advocacy group Giffords alleges the NRA used a network of shell companies to skirt campaign finance laws.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by the gun control advocacy group Giffords alleges the National Rifle Association used a network of shell companies to funnel millions of dollars to former President Donald Trump and other Republicans.

“Over the past seven years, the National Rifle Association has engaged in an ongoing scheme to evade campaign finance regulations by using a series of shell corporations to illegally but surreptitiously coordinate advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office,” the complaint reads.

Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog, filed the suit on behalf of Giffords in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Giffords, a nonprofit group, was founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head in 2011 at a meeting with constituents in a shooting that left 13 people dead.

“Through this scheme, two NRA affiliates made up to $35 million in illegal, excessive, and unreported campaign contributions across the 2014, 2016 and 2018 elections, including up to $25 million to the Trump campaign in 2016,” the lawsuit alleges. “These coordinated contributions violate the Federal Election Campaign’s Act’s (‘FECA’) contribution limits, corporate contribution ban, and disclosure requirements.”

Lawmakers named in the suit who are accused of receiving campaign money from the gun group’s alleged scheme are Republicans Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.), as well as Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and former Sen. Cory Gardner (R- Colo.).

The lawsuit seeks to make the NRA pay as much as $35 million to the U.S. Treasury for the alleged scheme. In a statement to Reuters, the NRA described the lawsuit as “misguided” and “another premeditated abuse of the public by our adversaries.”

The NRA is already facing a number of threats to its financial existence. In a lawsuit filed earlier this year, New York state Attorney General Letitia James said the NRA lost more than $64 million over three years after an 18-month investigation discovered that top executives funneled contracts to friends and family members and used charitable funds for their own personal gain.

James is now seeking to eliminate the group’s nonprofit status, and Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine has alleged the NRA illegally redirected donor money meant to fund firearms safety and training. These funds were allegedly “diverted to support wasteful spending by the NRA and its executives,” Racine said.

The gun group attempted to flee James’ civil lawsuit earlier this year by filing for bankruptcy in Texas. In May, federal Judge Harlin Hale rejected the group’s bankruptcy plan, saying the petition was “not filed in good faith.”

“The Court finds, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the NRA’s bankruptcy petition was not filed in good faith but instead was filed as an effort to gain an unfair litigation advantage in the NYAG Enforcement Action and as an effort to avoid a regulatory scheme,” Hale wrote in his ruling.