Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is locked in a tough re-election battle in a state President Donald Trump won by over 20 percentage points in 2016.
Tester apparently also has to worry about potentially illegal coordination between his opponent and the National Rifle Association (NRA), according to exclusive audio obtained by the Daily Beast.
In the recording, Republican senate candidate Matt Rosendale can be heard acknowledging that he was told he would receive financial support from Chris Cox, head of the NRA’s lobbying efforts:
“I fully expect the NRA is going to come in… in August sometime. The Supreme Court confirmations are big. That’s what sent the NRA over the line. Because in ’12, with [Republican Senate nominee Denny Rehberg] they stayed out, they stayed out of Montana. But Chris Cox told me, he’s like, ‘We’re going to be in this race.'”
Rosendale’s remarks were reportedly recorded at a July event in Washington, D.C. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which Cox oversees, eventually spent over $400,000 on advertisements opposing Tester.
Rosendale campaign spokesman, Shane Scanlon, confirmed the voice on the recording is the Republican Senate candidate’s, but denied any improper coordination had taken place.
“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,” the Associated Press reported. “Groups like the NRA can raise and spend unlimited amounts on elections if they operate independently of candidates.”
Tester recently criticized Rosendale over his claim of being a rancher despite having “no record of cattle sales.” Trump appeared with the Montana Republican at a rally last week and also endorsed him via Twitter.