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What Montanans are Reading: Rosendale’s “Potentially Illegal Coordination” with NRA Makes Front Pages

A day after The Daily Beast exclusively reported on audio of Matt Rosendale indicating “potentially illicit coordination” between the candidate and a dark money outside group, the story made front pages across the state.

This isn’t the first time Rosendale has been caught skirting campaign finance laws, In July, the Daily Beast reported that he “cooks books” to “allow his high dollar donors to get around campaign finance laws” and Politico reported on how his media consultant used a “mystery firm” to bypass coordination rules.

Here’s what Montanans are reading about Matt Rosendale’s latest campaign finance scandal:

Associated Press: Montana Senate candidate accused of coordinating with NRA

Key Points:

  • Democrats questioned Thursday whether U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale illegally coordinated with the National Rifle Association based on an audio recording of the Montana Republican saying the NRA planned to support his campaign.
  • An audio recording posted by The Daily Beast appears to capture Rosendale saying that he expected the NRA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to enter the race against Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in August, and that he had spoken with Chris Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the group’s lobbying arm.
  • Rosendale’s comments came in response to an unidentified speaker’s question, asking if outside groups started spending on his behalf.
  • “I fully expect that the U.S. Chamber is going to come in, and I fully expect that the NRA is going to come in,” Rosendale says on the recording. “I think both of them will be coming in probably right here in August sometime.”
  • The Federal Election Commission says illegal coordination happens when a communication is made in cooperation, consultation or at the request or suggestion of a candidate or a candidate’s agent, committee or political party. Groups like the NRA can raise and spend unlimited amounts on elections if they operate independently of candidates.
  • Brendan Fischer, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center, said it appeared to him that Rosendale was speaking about NRA spending money on ads in the race, because that was the question he was answering.
  • “It appeared from the recording that Rosendale was talking about something other than an endorsement,” Fischer said. “It creates an inference that the NRA-ILA had suggested what kind of communication it would be running in the Montana Seante race, and Rosendale assented, which would be coordination.”

Read the full article here.

Montana Free Press: Daily Beast audio reveals potential illegal coordination between NRA and Rosendale

Key Points:

  • According to an audio recording obtained by the Daily Beast, Republican Montana State Auditor and U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale may have illegally coordinated with a top NRA official prior to the conservative gun rights group spending nearly $400,000 on ads attacking Rosendale’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.
  • The Daily Beast reported this morning that Rosendale’s admitted on tape that he talked to Chris Cox, the NRA’s top political strategist for its Institute of Legislative Action. That same group later spent $404,496.35 on political ads opposing Tester, according to Federal Elections Commission records.
  • The audio in the Daily Beast recording appears to contradict Scanlon’s explanation. An unidentified person can be heard asking Rosendale if “outside groups have started spending” on Rosendale’s behalf. There was no mention of an endorsement in the audio segment made publicly available.
  • Brendan Fischer, director of Federal Election Commission reform programs for the Campaign Legal Center, told the Daily Beast Rosendale’s remarks, together with the eventual ad campaign he alluded to, might satisfy the “three-pronged” legal test for impermissible coordination. The three prongs are payment, content, and conduct.
  • In a follow-up email with the Montana Free Press, Fischer said the audio recording appears to satisfy the “request or suggestion” clause of the law defining coordination.
  • Alex Tausanovitch is the associate director of democracy and government reform at the Center for American Progress and served four years as counsel to commissioners on the FEC.
  • Tausanovitch said it’s difficult to imagine a more blatant example of illegal coordination.

Read the full article here.

Washington Post: Democrats tout evidence of ‘illegal coordination’ between NRA and Montana GOP Senate nominee

Key Points:

  • The Republican nominee for Montana’s contested Senate seat, Matt Rosendale, is facing accusations that he improperly coordinated with the National Rifle Association on an ad buy after a leaked audio recording was published Thursday by the Daily Beast.
  • The audio recording appears to show Rosendale discussing a conversation he had with Chris Cox, the NRA-ILA’s executive director, regarding the group’s planned involvement in the campaign. The Daily Beast reported that Rosendale made the remarks in July at an event in Washington.
  • He goes on to suggest that the NRA was swayed by the issue of whether Republicans will be able to maintain a Senate majority that can confirm any of President Trump’s future Supreme Court nominees.
  • “This audio raises serious concerns about potential illegal coordination between Matt Rosendale and an outside, dark-money group coming into Montana to support him,” Tester spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement.
  • The Montana Democratic Party pointed to a TV ad launched by the NRA in Montana last week as evidence that the group was “in this race” as Rosendale claimed it would be. The ad takes aim at Tester on gun control and his votes to confirm two of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees.

Read the full article here.

CNN: GOP Senate candidate’s comments raise questions about potential campaign finance violations

  • A Republican Senate candidate in Montana is facing questions over comments he made suggesting he knew of the National Rifle Association’s plans to be involved in his race — a move that experts say could violate campaign finance laws meant to prohibit campaigns from coordinating with outside groups.
  • The comments, recorded on audio first published by the Daily Beast and subsequently obtained by CNN, features the candidate, Matt Rosendale, talking about Chris Cox, a chief strategist with the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, and the group’s plans to support his challenge against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, a red-state incumbent up for re-election in the fall.
  • Larry Noble, general counsel of the FEC for 13 years, told CNN that Rosendale’s comments “clearly raise questions about whether the NRA illegally coordinated their ad campaign with Rosendale.”
  • “In his comments, Rosendale references a conversation he had with Chris Cox in which he was told that the NRA would be involved in his race,” Noble said. “If the NRA and Rosendale’s campaign discussed the content, issues or strategy involving the ads, or if Cox approved of the NRA’s ad campaign, the money spent by the NRA-ILA in coordination with Rosendale could constitute an illegal contribution to his campaign.”
  • “Not only does this raise questions under the federal campaign finance laws, but it could also raise questions under the Internal Revenue Code. Rosendale’s comments are clearly sufficient to warrant the FEC investigating the matter,” Noble added.

Read the full article here.

 

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