The left really wants to get the NRA. They’re looking for anything and everything they can use to try and blast the organization as being some kind of evil. What they’re hoping is that they can find enough dirt not just to discredit them, but to get them fined into oblivion.
Their latest attempt? Apparently, the NRA pledged to offer financial support for a candidate.
Before the National Rifle Association dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to flip a competitive, Democratic-held Senate seat, the gun-rights group’s chief lobbyist apparently gave the race’s Republican challenger a heads-up.
Chris Cox, the top political strategist for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), assured Montana Republican Matt Rosendale that the group would spend heavily to support his bid to unseat Sen. Jon Tester, Rosendale told attendees at a July event in Washington.
PAY DIRT exclusively obtained audio of Rosendale’s remarks, which good-government groups say raise serious questions of potentially illicit coordination between Rosendale and an independent political group supporting his campaign.
“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime,” Rosendale said in response to a question about independent political spenders in the race. “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 Chris Cox told me, he’s like, ‘We’re going to be in this race.’”
Rosendale was slightly off in terms of timing, but the NRA did come through as Cox apparently promised. Early this month, the group spent more than $400,000 on ads hitting Tester over the precise issue that Rosendale mentioned—the senator’s votes on Supreme Court nominations.
Rosendale’s remarks are potentially problematic, as the NRA-ILA, a 501(c)(4) “dark-money” group, is legally barred from coordinating its ad buys with a federal campaign. As explained by nonprofit tax law attorney Holly Schadler, illegal coordination may occur “if the organization has substantial discussions with the campaign about an expenditure, or if the organization informs the campaign about a planned communication related to the campaign and the campaign signals its agreement with the suggestion to make that communication.”
There are a number of problems here, though.
For one, you just have Rosendale spouting off about it. Cox saying the NRA would spend the money doesn’t count as “coordination” in and of itself. I can tell you that I’m going to order a pizza for dinner, but it doesn’t mean that we coordinated a blasted thing.
Another issue at play here is that you have only one side of the story. Rosendale’s recounting of what transpired is purely from his perspective. Even third-party eyewitness testimony can be unreliable. There’s no reason to believe that what Rosendale is saying on this recording is the gospel truth.
Of course, I also have questions about where that recording came from.
Montana is a two-party consent state, which means that if Rosendale didn’t consent to be recorded in some way–and if he actually coordinated with the NRA and committed a crime, he would have been an idiot to consent to it–then the recording itself is more indicative of rule-breaking than anything he said on it.
The Daily Beast may think this is a “gotcha” moment, but it’s not.
What Rosendale is talking about is the kind of thing that literally happens in every campaign worth being called a campaign. People tell them what kind of support they’re going to get and when they can expect to get it. It’s not coordination; it’s just a comment, especially since there’s no obligation to follow through.
And that’s if what Rosendale is saying happens to be 100 percent accurate.
How about the media start working a little hard on real news and a little less time trying to discredit the NRA for a change? It’s a novel idea, but maybe one worth trying.