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The NRA is being sued for allegedly breaking campaign finance law to back Republicans

Former Arizona congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords speaks during a demonstration with victims of gun violence in front of the Supreme Court as arguments begin in a major case on gun rights on November 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Former Arizona congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords speaks during a demonstration with victims of gun violence in front of the Supreme Court as arguments begin in a major case on gun rights on November 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.

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.

"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," he added.

The lawsuit claims that the NRA coordinated with seven different campaigns by siphoning money through vendors in a way that violated federal campaign finance laws. The suit alleges that other beneficiaries of the scheme included Republican Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Missouri's Josh Hawley, among others.

Spokesmen for the GOP lawmakers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Neither did representatives for former President Trump.

The NRA says the suit is a political attack

In a statement shared with NPR, the NRA called the federal lawsuit "misguided."

"Another premeditated abuse of the public by our adversaries — who will stop at nothing in their pursuit of their anti-freedom agenda," the group said in a statement. "Suffice it to say, the NRA has full confidence in its political activities and remains eager to set the record straight."

The Giffords lawsuit comes as the NRA is facing legal battles on multiple fronts. New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the group in 2020, accusing it of financial misconduct. James is seeking to dissolve the NRA. And earlier this year, a federal judge denied the NRA's bid to declare bankruptcy.

Giffords brought the case to the FEC, which took no action

The Giffords organization previously brought its complaints about the NRA to the Federal Election Commission and sued the FEC in an attempt to force it to rule on those complaints. When the FEC took no action, Giffords said, it sued the NRA directly.

The nonprofit was founded and is currently run by the former congresswoman who was shot during a Tucson campaign event in 2011.

The lawsuit was filed by the Campaign Legal Center Action on behalf of the nonprofit.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.