A federal judge on Thursday said that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) must look into and take action on allegations that the National Rifle Association (NRA) illegally carried out a shell entity campaign to coordinate with the election races of former President Trump and other candidates.
Judge Emmet Sullivan for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the FEC’s motion to dismiss or provide summary judgment in the case resulting from the 2019 lawsuit filed by the Campaign Legal Action Center on behalf of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In the 2019 complaint, the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group connected to former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), argued that the FEC had failed to take action on four separate complaints that the NRA “violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using a complex network of shell corporations to unlawfully coordinate expenditures with the campaigns of at least seven candidates for federal office.”
The complaint specifically noted that the contributions resulting from the alleged scheme included “up to $25 million in illegal contributions” to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Sullivan on Thursday granted the plaintiff’s request for action to compel the FEC to “comply with its statutory duty to act” on the complaints, noting that the election regulatory agency now has 30 days to take action on the complaints.
David Pucino, senior staff attorney at Giffords Law Center, said in a statement shared with The Hill that the judge’s order was “a resounding win to keep dark money out of our politics.”
“Over the last several years and across election cycles, the NRA has been brazenly flouting campaign finance law by illegally funneling money to candidates while claiming to remain independent,” Pucino asserted.
He went on to argue that “the NRA has used these tactics not just to obscure their contributions, but to violate spending caps, undermining the integrity of our elections and the rule of law.”
“It is clear that the NRA will continue to violate the law until someone stops them,” he added.
When contacted by The Hill, the FEC said it does not comment on pending litigation.
The center had argued in its 2019 complaint that the NRA's collections from shell entities far surpassed the limits set by the FEC, arguing that “illegal contributions to the Trump campaign alone are up to 9,259 times the limit set by Congress.”
NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in a statement to The Hill that the lawsuit is "a baseless effort engineered by anti-gun groups who want to silence the voices of our members."
"We welcome the FEC's review so we can move on from this frivolous distraction," the spokesman added.
--Updated 10:09 a.m.