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Daniel Defense, maker of rifle used in Uvalde massacre, accused of violating campaign finance law

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Shortly after the 2020 election, a super PAC formed in Tampa called the Gun Owners Action Fund.

On Jan. 6, 2021 — a day that would come to be associated with the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol — a Georgia-based gun manufacturer, Daniel Defense, contributed $100,000 to the super PAC.

Last month, Daniel Defense came under a spotlight when one of its rifles was used in the massacre of 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Tex. The company pulled out of a planned appearance at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. The House Oversight Committee launched an investigation. And a trail of political donations from Daniel Defense’s owners illustrated the financial clout of the gun industry, even as NRA spending has declined in recent years.

Now a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, says Daniel Defense violated federal law when it gave the money to the Gun Owners Action Fund because federal contractors are barred from making contributions to federal candidates or committees.

Representatives of Daniel Defense did not respond to a request for comment. But a treasurer for the Gun Owners Action Fund, Nancy H. Watkins, said in an email that the PAC had refunded the $100,000 contribution in May at the request of Daniel Defense.

Daniel Defense had multiple active federal contracts at the time of last year’s donation, according to a federal contracting database. They included contracts for weapons and replacement parts, among other products, with the Defense Department, the State Department and the Justice Department.

“Allowing federal contractors like Daniel Defense to make political contributions would risk creating a ‘pay to play’ culture of political corruption, in which companies benefiting from taxpayer-funded federal contracts receive favored treatment in exchange for their political contributions,” argues the complaint, filed last week with the Federal Election Commission.

Preventing that kind of corruption, the complaint adds, is why Congress prohibited companies from making political contributions at any time between the beginning of negotiations over a federal contract and the completion or termination of that contract. The ban was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. in 2015, with then-Chief Judge Merrick Garland, now President Biden’s attorney general, writing the majority opinion.

This is also an area of campaign finance law that the FEC, whose six members increasingly deadlock along party lines, has proved willing to enforce. In April, the commission fined a lab equipment manufacturer $56,000 for violating the ban on federal contractors making political donations when it gave $300,000 to Americans for Prosperity Action, a conservative super PAC. The super PAC refunded the donation last year, following a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center.

Daniel Defense has been awarded $1.9 million total in federal contracts, according to last week’s complaint. The $100,000 the company gave to the Gun Owners Action Fund accounts for nearly 90 percent of the super PAC’s funding. Its expenditures, meanwhile, were devoted exclusively to boosting then-Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans of Georgia, in their unsuccessful runoff elections against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael G. Warnock.

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Written by Politixia

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