Thursday, The Trace released a report detailing an even tighter bond between the NRA and the president than previously known. If true, the NRA and Trump campaign illegally worked together on their ad buys in the 2016 campaign and are in violation of several election laws.
The NRA hired Red Eagle Media to run its ad campaign and proceeded to purchase 52 ad spots on game shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, targeting adults aged 35 to 64, per The Trace. The ads were described as “anti-Hillary” and “pro-Trump” in legal documents from the media firm.
The Trump campaign followed up with the same course of action—literally. It purchased 33 of the same ad spots, through a firm called American Media & Advocacy Group (AMAG), that targeted the same demographic and aired during the same time slots. That’s worthy of deeper investigation on its own, but it goes deeper. Apparently, the same man approved both the Red Eagle Media buy and the AMAG buy. That man is Jon Ferrell, is the Chief Financial Officer of National Media.
National Media, as it turns out, is the parent company of Red Eagle and AMAG. On first glance, it looked like there was no connection between the Trump and NRA campaign. In typical Trump fashion, though, the alleged cooperation was ludicrously evident after reading some legal documents.
To be clear, it’s legal for two different groups to use the same media firm. Trump and the NRA could have technically both used Red Eagle Media, with the stipulation that separate teams work on each and don’t share information with one another. Another federal election law states that if a campaign and an independent group share knowledge relevant to the election, the group’ campaign donations are limited to a $5,000. The NRA gave Trump $30 million.
The Trace writes: “Individuals working for National Media or its affiliated companies either signed or were named in FCC documents, demonstrating that they had knowledge of both the NRA and the Trump campaign’s advertising plans.” What’s more, AMAG doesn’t have a single employee not also affiliated with National Media.
Here’s why this is illegal: By combining forces, an independent group and a campaign are able to fool the system and save big time. The law forces TV companies to offer candidates the lowest price and groups like the NRA the highest. The Trace’s report shows obvious coordination when National Media sent both clients to sports for their ad buys. Trump’s campaign ran one ad, the NRA ran two and vice versa for seven sporting events, each one either pro-Trump or anti-Hillary. When Red Eagle and AMAG bought those TV spots, they saved huge amounts of money and wormed their way out of the law.