NRA faces important new lawsuit from Gabby Giffords’ group

Gun Rights

The National Rifle Association was already facing some legal difficulties. In May, for example, a federal judge denied the group’s effort to file for bankruptcy protection, concluding it “was not filed in good faith.” The developments stemmed from a case brought against the NRA by the New York attorney general’s office.

Now, there’s a new case that’s likely to keep the far-right organization’s lawyers busy. NPR reported:

Giffords, the gun-control nonprofit founded by former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, has filed a federal lawsuit accusing the National Rifle Association of violating campaign finance laws dating back to 2014. The lawsuit alleges that the country’s leading gun rights group used shell companies to funnel “as much as $35 million in unlawful, excessive, and unreported in-kind campaign contributions” to Republican candidates for federal office, including Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“The NRA has long acted like it is above the law, and it has done so flagrantly in the last several election cycles,” David Pucino, Giffords Law Center senior staff attorney, said in a statement. He added, “This lawsuit demonstrates that the NRA broke the law by illegally coordinating with federal campaigns and funneling millions of dollars to candidates who supported their extremist, deadly agenda.”

Not surprisingly, the NRA said the lawsuit is “misguided” and part of an “anti-freedom agenda.”

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We’ll learn soon enough whether the allegations have merit, but there’s no doubt that the claims raised by Giffords and its attorneys are striking in their seriousness.

According to the litigation, the NRA was so eager to financially support its Republican allies — a group that included senators such as Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Missouri’s Josh Hawley, and Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, among others — that it created an illegal scheme to hide contributions through shell companies.

The allegations include claims that the NRA’s scheme ran afoul of the law, not only by effectively laundering financial support, but also by ignoring legal limits on the size of contributions.

Giffords’ lawyers also allege this wasn’t just a one-time transgression: The lawsuit claims the NRA did this repeatedly over multiple election cycles.

It’s worth emphasizing that, as a general matter, the National Rifle Association’s financial support for allied candidates is not new. The NRA’s role in making legal donations to candidates is well documented.

What this new lawsuit is alleging is something altogether different: Giffords and its attorneys are saying that the NRA, in addition to the political support the public already knows about, created an entirely separate mechanism for funneling money to likeminded Republican candidates.

What’s more, while it’s far too soon to say what will happen in this case, let’s also not forget that the underlying claims have already received some judicial scrutiny. The Washington Post reported yesterday that this legal complaint “came after a federal judge granted Giffords’s nonprofit the right to sue the NRA when the Federal Election Commission failed to act on previous complaints.”

On Sept. 30, the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia issued an order compelling the FEC to act on Giffords’s previous complaints within 30 days. The FEC did not act in that time period, and the court ruled Monday that the nonprofit could sue the NRA itself. “The FEC had the chance to do its job by taking action against the NRA for this massive coordination scheme,” Molly Danahy, senior legal counsel for litigation at Campaign Legal Center, said in a news release, “but as usual, the FEC failed to enforce the law.”

This is going to be a case worth watching.

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