Media, Gun Control Groups Exaggerate NRA Donations to Republicans  

Attacks on NRA conflate independent expenditures and donations

The National Rifle Association seal / Getty Images

BY:

A number of media figures and gun control groups have grossly misstated the amount of money the National Rifle Association (NRA) has donated to Republican candidates in their coverage following the deadly shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The NRA's political action committee, like all federal PACs, is limited in how much it can give to candidates every election cycle. A federal PAC is allowed to contribute a maximum of $10,000 per candidate, per election cycle ($5,000 for a primary, and $5,000 for a general election).

Despite these limits, many have been using terminology that attributes inaccurate political donations to Republican politicians by what appears to be combining actual donations to candidates with the NRA's independent expenditures, which are not "contributions," "funding," or associated with any candidates or campaigns in any way.

MSNBC's Joy Reid, for example, tweeted out a picture of Sen. Marco Rubio on Feb. 24 that read, "Donations from the NRA to Sen. Marco Rubio—$3,303,355." The photo was retweeted nearly 4,700 times and liked more than 5,700 times.

On Saturday morning, Reid talked about that figure on her MSNBC segment.

"So now, Marco Rubio is essentially not taking a single step away from the NRA. In fact, let's look at his history. Over the course of his career, his donations from the NRA total—top—$3.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."

The NRA's PAC has donated only $9,900 directly to Rubio's campaign, all of which came during the 2016 cycle.

The NRA did spend $2.3 million on independent expenditures in Rubio's 2016 race targeting former Democratic representative Patrick Murphy and $1 million in favor of Rubio. However, independent expenditures, such as money put into advertisements, are not "donations" and cannot be coordinated with a candidate's campaign.

Independent expenditures are communications that advocate for or against candidates "that are not made in cooperation, consultation, or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate, a candidate's authorized committee, or their agents, or a political party or its agents."

Reid's producer did not return a request for comment on Reid associating them with donations directly to Rubio.

TIME published an article following the tragedy titled, "Here's How Much the NRA has Given to Florida Lawmakers."

The piece included a viral tweet from Bess Kalb, a writer for the Jimmy Kimmel Live television show, that read, "In the 2015-2016 election cycle, GOP candidates took $17,385,437 from the NRA."

The TIME article transitioned from the tweet to Florida federal candidates, writing that they were given $834,165 in donations from the NRA's PAC throughout the 2016 elections.

The 19 federal politicians from Florida received a total of $42,600 during the 2016 election cycle. The $834,165 figure stated by the publication is the total combined amount that the NRA's PAC gave to all federal politicians across the United States during the 2016 cycle.

TIME corrected and updated their article after being told of the actual amounts that the lawmakers were given.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group funded by liberal billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and Moms Demand Safety, another gun control group, ran a two-page, $230,000 advertisement in the New York Times with a list of every Republican politician that has "received NRA donations," The Hill reported.

The list included 100 names of politicians, their phone numbers, and what they have been given by the NRA.

"These members of Congress take NRA money, but refuse to take action to pass gun safety legislation," the advertisement reads. The second page of the ad features a photo of children leaving Majory Stoneman following the shooting. "We're children. You guys are adults … get something done," it states.

Many of the figures associated with the politicians who "take NRA money" are also misleading, as they appear to combine totals for the donations directly to candidates with the independent money that was spent in their respective races that is separate from the campaigns.

Everytown did not return a request for comment by press time on why they labeled their figures as "funding" to the candidates.

The NRA's PAC has averaged around $1.3 million in total direct contributions to all federal candidates per election cycle since 1990, according to data used from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Joe Schoffstall   Email Joe | Full Bio | RSS
Joe Schoffstall is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Previously, he spent three years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. He can be reached at Schoffstall@freebeacon.com. His Twitter handle is @JoeSchoffstall.

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