Josh Hawley Caught Up In $1,000,000 Illegal Donation Scheme


Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been slapped with a lawsuit alleging that his campaign received nearly $1 million in illegal contributions from the prominent pro-gun group known as the National Rifle Association (NRA). Other candidates, including Donald Trump himself, are also named in the legal action — the case “alleges the NRA spent $35 million since 2014 to support seven candidates named in the complaint — Hawley and Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in 2018; Sen. Ron Johnson and former President Donald Trump in 2016; and Sens. Thom Tillis, Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner in 2014,” as summarized by Stars & Stripes.

The lawsuit, which was filed by the Campaign Legal Center for the advocacy organization helmed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), claims that the NRA made these sweeping illegal contributions — which appear to have been in the form of campaign support rather than direct cash infusions — through shell companies that worked on campaign messaging. A news report from all the way back in 2019 also outlined how the same individual at a media-buying company called National Media had purchased ad spots for Hawley and the NRA that frequently appeared soon after one another on Missouri radio stations during the 2018 elections.

The companies “may attempt to claim they established firewalls segregating work for the NRA and campaigns, but that argument falls apart when the same employees are placing ads for both groups,” the Campaign Legal Center observes. Ultimately, the “ad buys were alleged to have violated laws designed to prevent independent groups from synchronizing their efforts with political campaigns,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains.

David Pucino, who serves as senior staff attorney at the Giffords Law Center, commented as follows regarding the situation:

‘The NRA has long acted like it is above the law, and it has done so flagrantly in the last several election cycles. 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. We are suing the NRA to finally hold them accountable for actions that corrupted politicians and undermined our democracy.’

Companies involved in the NRA-tied political work were “led by the same people, located at the same address, and have no internal separation or firewall between the staff who work for each entity,” the lawsuit says, adding that “the same staff performed work for both the NRA Affiliates and the candidates’ campaigns during the same election cycle.” The Campaign Legal Center has separately explained how “[evidence] shows that a media firm called OnMessage set up a shell corporation called Starboard, located at the same address and with the same leadership; the NRA contracted with Starboard to produce its ads, and the candidates the NRA supported hired OnMessage.” The set-up would appear to produce the illusion of distinctions between the NRA and candidate operations when they were in fact, for all reasonable purposes, one and the same — in violation of the law.