In an explosive new report from Mother Jones, the Trump campaign is accused of illegally coordinating with the National Rifle Association to sync up ads and maximize advertising dollars during the 2016 presidential election. The report alleges that a number of federal election laws were broken. In other words, Donald Trump is now being accused of collusion right here on home soil — after a fashion.
The NRA donated $30 million to help get Donald Trump elected as president of the United States, more than any other group. Most of the money was used for TV ads, according to Mother Jones.
But the NRA wanted to spend its money wisely, naturally. They wanted those TV ads to find the right people. In order to do this, the NRA hired Red Eagle Media. This is a media strategy firm.
As part of what Red Eagle Media did with NRA dollars, the company bought 52 ad slots on a Norfolk, Virginia, TV station in late October, 2016.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Not long after Red Eagle bought up all that ad time, the Trump campaign purchased 33 ad slots on the exact same station. These ads were scheduled to run the same week as the ads paid for by the NRA.
The Trump campaign ads were purchased through American Media & Advocacy Group, which essentially does the same thing as Red Eagle Media.
And honestly, all this doesn’t look so suspicious at first. Each marketing group was attempting to target a specific demographic in a specific region of the country, after all.
But there’s more. Both Red Eagle Media and American Media & Advocacy Group are tied to an even bigger media consulting firm: National Media Research, Planning and Placement.
How closely are these three companies linked? The same person authorized both the Trump campaign’s TV purchase and the NRA’s. Jon Ferrell essentially signed both checks, so to speak.
That’s pretty closely intertwined.
Ferrell is the chief financial officer for National Media, according to The Hill Reporter.
In the words of Larry Noble, a former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission, “this is very strong evidence, if not proof, of illegal coordination.”
“This is the heat of the general election, and the same person is acting as an agent for the NRA and the Trump campaign,” he said.
At times, the NRA and the Trump campaign hired the same people and used the same methods to create political ads and marketing materials.
Mother Jones and The Trace worked together to examine more than 1,000 pages from the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Election Commission. They found “multiple instances” where National Media was responsible for ad buys for both the NRA and Donald Trump.
“It is so blatant that it doesn’t even seem sloppy. Everyone involved probably just thinks there aren’t going to be any consequences,” said Ann Ravel, a former chairperson for the Federal Election Commission. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where illegal coordination seems more obvious.”
The NRA, and anyone else, can donate as much money as it wants to Donald Trump without breaking any laws. However, a campaign is not allowed to coordinate with any independent group and cannot share election-related information — unless they stay below a $5,000 spending cap.
The $30 million spent by the NRA exceeds that cap by quite a bit.
The Trace found at least four other current or former employees of National Media who are named as representatives for both the Trump campaign and the NRA.
The NRA, the White House, the Trump campaign and National Media were all contacted with requests for comment on the story. None responded.
According to Slate, it may not matter. The FEC is stymied at the moment and unable to act on this matter or any other, as it currently has only four out of a needed six commissioners working. This leaves the FED unable to call a quorum and take any action.