Perpetual Candidate Matt Rosendale Involved in Yet Another Campaign Finance Scheme

A person would have to be excused for believing that Matt Rosendale just can’t run a clean campaign. During his 2018 Senate campaign, he was called out for a scheme that was little better than money laundering to allow donors to exceed campaign finance limits and he openly discussed illegal coordination with the National Rifle Association.

Now, it appears that he received millions of dollars of illegal, coordinated support from the pro-Trump American First Action Super PAC.

From ABC News:

According to the complaint, America First Action, during the 2018 cycle, spent nearly $6.6 million on an ad blitz supporting former Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, using multiple vendors linked to a political consulting firm called OnMessage, while the candidates were, at the same time, placing ads using a firm named National Media. The firms were disguised as separate entities in campaign disclosure reports and the super PAC’s spending was reported as independent expenditures (e.g. unconnected to the campaigns), according to the complaint, which cites public records reviewed by ABC News.

At the center of this violation is the coordination that would have made the Super PAC expenditures more effective because, knowing when and where Rosendale was placing ads himself, the Super PAC could place their ads in positions most complementary to those of the campaign. The intent of the current campaign finance law structure is to keep a clear firewall between campaigns and Super PACS, something it appears American First Action did not do in this case.

The Campaign Legal Center, who filed the complaint, explains the scheme:

AFA placed its ads supporting these candidates using the same cluster of consulting firms—and in some cases, the same person–as used by the three campaigns to place their own ads. This coordinated ad placement strategy allowed the supposedly independent AFA to illegally synchronize its ad buys with those campaigns, and is strikingly similar to the common vendor coordination scheme used by the NRA in recent election cycles.

In fact, as the CLC complaint notes, “in some cases, the same National Media employee placed ads on behalf of both AFA and the campaigns on the same station and at the same time,” something Rosendale benefited from in a series of coordinated ad buys in September and October 2018.

When asked by ABC News, Rosendale bravely refused comment.

And if the name America First Action seems familiar, it’s because the comically corrupt, Soviet-born Rudy Giuliani pals Lev Parnas and Igor Frum were recently indicted, in part, because they made straw donations to that PAC. From ABC again:

The indictment also alleges the defendants made a series of illegal straw donations that included $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action. Prosecutors allege that the two suspects violated the law by falsely reporting the origin of those funds under the name of “Global Energy Producers.”

For those of you scoring at home, Rosendale pretty clearly benefited from illegal campaign coordination from a Super PAC linked to “individuals with foreign allegiances are leveraging political ties to undermine campaign finance safeguards and gain influence.”

At a certain point, even Montana Republicans—who have demonstrated a remarkable ability to overlook the corruption of the Trump presidency—would have to start to question Matt Rosendale’s character. During his perpetual campaign to return to his Maryland home on our dime, he’s used state resources to campaign, refused to come to work, taken a tax break reserved for Maryland residents, lied about his profession, and repeatedly benefited from violations of campaign finance laws.

Hell, Corey Stapleton could credibly call Rosendale a crook without hypocrisy.

Montana—and even Maryland—could do better than this guy, who, while promising that he’ll “drain the swamp” in D.C., has sunk so deeply into the muck that we’d all be better off never hearing from him again.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • Hummm…. the George Soros-backed Open Society Foundation (OSF) funds the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), who filed the complaint. Is this another false allegation to smear a candidate that dies on the vine?

    • This is called the genetic fallacy, when a person attacks the source of the claim rather than the claim itself. I’ve linked the complaint, which lays out pretty clearly how Rosendale’s campaign benefited from coordinated donations. Do you have any substantive criticism to offer?

  • Some serious sleaze transpired in the 2018 Rosendale campaign, and Matt got away with it. So, what’s to keep him from doing it again this campaign cycle? Let’s keep an eye on the quarterly campaign finance reports.

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