GOP Senate nominee may have blurted out evidence of collusion with NRA


Republican Matt Rosendale may have violated campaign finance law by illegally coordinating with the NRA. And he just blurted it out.

U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, the Republican trying to unseat Democratic incumbent Jon Tester in Montana, may have violated campaign finance law by illegally coordinating with the NRA.

In an audio obtained and released by the Daily Beast, Rosendale can be heard touting his support from the NRA, telling the crowd at a July event that he knew (in advance) that the gun group was going to get into the race with a major ad buy against Tester.

“Have outside groups started spending on your behalf?” a man at the event asks Rosendale.

Rosendale responded affirmatively, saying, "I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime."

"The Supreme Court confirmations are big. That’s what sent the NRA over the line. Because in ’12, with [Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg] they stayed out, they stayed out of Montana. But [NRA political strategist] Chris Cox told me, he’s like, ‘We’re going to be in this race,’" he said.

Sure enough, earlier this month, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRL-ILA) dropped more than $400,000 on attack ads going after Tester for his votes on Trump’s Supreme Court nominations, according to records from the Federal Elections Commission.

Under federal law, candidates are barred from coordinating with independent political donors who dump dark money into elections on their behalf.

Rosendale’s comments about speaking with Cox call into question whether the NRA and the Republican candidate fulfilled the FEC’s "three-pronged" criteria for a campaign finance violation, the Campaign Legal Center’s Brendan Fischer told the Daily Beast.

"The payment prong is satisfied because the ads were paid for by somebody other than Rosendale; the content prong is satisfied because the ads expressly advocate against the election of Rosendale’s opponent; and the conduct prong can be satisfied by Rosendale assenting to the request or suggestion of the entity paying for the ad: the NRA," Fischer told the Daily Beast.

If shown to be true, this would only be the latest sign of trouble for the NRA, which has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for its ties to Russia.

For a long time, the NRA denied that it received any money from Russian entities, but the group was forced to admit earlier this year that it had accepted Russian money from more than 20 sources.

However, the NRA refused to disclose the sources of its dark contributions — meaning that it’s entirely possible that other sources of funding for the group are connected to Russia, too.

Not long after the group admitted it had accepted donations from nearly two dozen Kremlin-linked entities, Russian national Maria Butina, a lifetime NRA member with ties to some of the group's senior leadership, was arrested on suspicion of being a spy for the Russian government.

Meanwhile, the FEC is reportedly looking at whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the NRA that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign, and the FBI is also reportedly investigating the NRA as a potential vehicle for Russian money laundering.

Now, with another level of its finances under scrutiny, the NRA may soon wish it hadn't gotten into the dirty business of dealing in dark money — and Republicans like Rosendale may soon regret accepting it.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.