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Three GOP Senate candidates, NRA may have illegally coordinated ads: report

The National Rifle Association (NRA) may have illegally coordinated political advertisements for three Republican candidates in high-profile Senate races, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records released on Friday by Mother Jones and The Trace. 

GOP candidates Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE in Missouri’s 2018 race, Matt Rosendale in Montana’s 2018 race and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrAs Trump downplayed the virus publicly, memo based on private briefings sparked stock sell-offs: NYT Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE in North Carolina’s 2016 race all used the same media consultant as the NRA for promo hits about themselves.

That appears to be a violation of law designed to prevent political campaigns from working together with private, independent groups, Mother Jones noted.

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Jon Ferrell, the chief financial officer of National Media, authorized ad purchases for both the NRA and the Senate campaigns at least 10 times, according to FCC records obtained by the outlet.

National Media representatives used the “assumed or fictitious name” Red Eagle Media to buy ads on behalf of the NRA in support of the group’s preferred Senate candidates, Mother Jones reported. Then the same group simultaneously bought ads for those Senate candidates while working under the name American Media & Advocacy Group.

Outside groups are banned from sharing any election-related information with the candidates they support. It is not illegal under campaign finance law for independent groups and campaigns to use the same consultants, but the FCC bans the staring of information.

“All evidence points to coordination,” Larry Noble, the former general counsel of the FCC, told Mother Jones. “It’s hard to understand how you’d have the same person authorizing placements for the NRA and the candidate and it not be coordination.”

The Hill has reached out to the NRA for comment.

Hawley, Missouri's former attorney general, defeated Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE in November. He was sworn into office earlier this month.

Records show that the NRA purchased almost 70 ads on local TV stations supporting Hawley before the election. The ads were purchased on behalf of Red Eagle Media, according to FCC records obtained by Mother Jones.

Ferrell even signed paperwork for one of the TV spots with a handwritten note stating “agent for Josh Hawley for Senate.”

Many of the ads that Ferrell purchased on behalf of the NRA closely mirror those he authorized for Hawley’s campaign, sometimes running on television just minutes apart.

The Hill has reached out to Hawley’s campaign for comment.

There was a similar pattern between Rosendale’s failed campaign to unseat Montana Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Green groups seek overturn of Colorado land plans after court decision ousting Pendley Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  MORE (D) last year.

Ferrell also signed off on purchases for both Burr’s successful 2016 Senate race against Democrat Deborah Ross and the NRA, Mother Jones reported. Burr employed National Media and the NRA employed Red Eagle but Ferrell signed off on both purchases.

National Media and Ferrell did not respond to Mother Jones’s requests for comment.