The nation’s largest gun rights group has shoveled $36 million into this year’s election cycle in federal races leading up to November.
Picking and choosing where to invest their funds for the best outcome at the ballot, donations to targeted candidates from the National Rifle Association would seem to be focused on two goals: keeping Hillary Clinton away from the White House, and maintaining Republican control of the Senate.
As detailed by the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA through its Institute for Legislative Action and PAC organizations, have spent some $35,987,211 on federal elections as of Oct. 6 filings.
The lion’s share of the spending, $21.6 million, has gone to either support Donald Trump as a candidate, or blast Hillary Clinton. The funds have gone to a series of ad buys, primarily in battle ground states that are seen as being up for grabs. These include one in June featuring a Marine vet blasting Clinton for her perceived error in judgement following the 2012 embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya; a $3 million campaign labeling the former secretary of state “An out-of-touch hypocrite” in August; and two ads in September aimed at female voters — a demographic that has polled low for Trump — claiming Clinton would leave them defenseless
Moving past the presidential race, the gun rights group is spending heavily in an effort to keep the Senate as red as possible, with $14 million going to a handful of races in favor of incumbent GOP senators.
In North Carolina, the NRA has dropped $4.4 million to shore up U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s campaign against challenger Deborah Ross including a $1.7 million ad buy announced last week. The group has rated Ross an “F” and Burr an “A+” the lowest and highest grades possible on their scale. “Deborah Ross has made it clear that she is not a friend of the Second Amendment,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA in a statement last week.
The Buckeye State of Ohio is the scene of a nearly $1.8 million push by the NRA to keep junior U.S. Sen. Rob Portman in place against a challenge from former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who was narrowly defeated by current Gov. John Kasich in 2010.
Missouri has been the scene of a series of back and forth ads slamming Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is seeking to take current Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s job. The NRA has poured just over $1.8 million on a campaign that saw Kander take to field stripping an AR-15 blindfolded to defend his stand on gun rights, which the group argues is mushy.
Former presidential candidate and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has benefited from $1.7 million in NRA dollars during his fight against Orlando-area U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy. This has gone toward an ad onslaught featuring Mark “Oz” Geist, of the group’s Clinton Benghazi spot, slamming Murphy for being weak. If successful, it could counterbalance a loss by New Hampshire’s incumbent and NRA-endorsed Kelly Ayotte, who is facing a tough battle against current Gov. Maggie Hassan that is funded in large part by money from gun control groups.
In Nevada, the Fairfax, Va. based organization has waded into the fight for outgoing Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid’s vacant seat, spending $1.6 million against former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Mastro in favor of GOP contender U.S. Rep. Joe Heck.
Smaller amounts of money have gone to support Republican incumbents Richard Shelby in Alabama, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, and Rand Paul in Kentucky. Iowa’s Chuck Grassely, powerful head of the Senate Judiciary Committee who was key in barring hearings for Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has received $84,842 in a race where he has a comfortable lead against his Democratic challenger.
In addition to the $36 million spent on federal campaigns, the gun rights group has also dropped $4 million opposing Nevada’s Question 1 ballot referendum on expanding background checks to include private firearms sales, and smaller amounts against other voter initiatives in California, Maine and Washington.