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How Much Did the NRA Pay Senators Who Killed Gun Background Checks?

It’s hardly a secret that the National Rifle Association’s political power obliterated last month’s Senate bill seeking to expand background checks on gun sales. But do you know exactly how much it costs the NRA to buy a politician’s vote?

Usually, the NRA’s cash infusion ensures that legislation to address gun violence doesn’t even materialize. But the Newtown, Connecticut massacre encouraged a single gun control measure to cautiously tip-toe out onto the Senate floor. Despite the fact that a vast majority of Americans – and an overwhelming majority of NRA members [1] – support expanded background checks, certain senators allowed the sizeable donations they had received from the NRA, as well as the fear of future NRA-fueled backlash, to influence their vote.

So, what kind of cash could compel elected officials to aid and abet criminals, the mentally ill and terrorists by leaving open loopholes from them to purchase weapons? In the most recent election cycle, the NRA paid a total of $293,749 [2] to buy the votes of 38 of the 45 people who voted to kill the background check bill.

NRA donations to individual senators in the latest cycle are listed at the end of the post; here is the quick analysis:

  • About 85 percent of the senators who voted against gun sale background checks had received NRA donations during their latest campaign.  
  • Among these senators, the average NRA campaign contribution was $7,730 for one election cycle.
  • The NRA’s favorite senators, who hold the group's “A+” rating, earned 27 percent more cash, on average. The 10 senators with “A+” ratings who opposed background checks together took in $97,950, or an average of $9,795 each in their last campaign.
  • The largest amount the NRA donated to a single politician in one cycle was $19,800, which went to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Of the seven senators (not counting Harry Reid [3]) who voted against expanded background checks without benefiting from a recent NRA contribution, three are Democrats. A fourth, Roy Blunt (R-MO), did receive nearly $10,000 from the NRA for his 2010 House race before getting skipped over for his 2012 Senate race. A fifth senator, Daniel Coats (R-IN), only holds a “C+” rating from the NRA.

NRA Spent $100 Million Influencing Politics Since 1990s

The nearly $300,000 the NRA spent to keep its grip on the Senate in recent years is only the tip of the iceberg. The gun rights group has continually flooded Washington with cash since [4] started keeping track two decades ago:

  • Since 1990, the nation’s biggest gun lobby group has shelled out a total of $21.3 million on campaign contributions.
  • The NRA has spent an additional $29.9 million on lobbying since 1998.
  • At least $19.8 million of additional outside spending has funded ads, a number which doesn’t appear to include the reported $25 million4 spent just on the 2012 election cycle.

It’s clear the NRA’s immutable and extreme positions serve only to protect the profits of gun manufacturers. No other reasonable interpretation exists for its extreme partisanship over the clear desires of the membership it claims to represent. After all, three in four NRA households [1] support expanded background checks. Overall, 73 percent of Americans [5] believe the Senate should try again to pass legislation expanding background checks. 

No Hope For House Background Check Bill

Reps. Pete King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) would like to bring the same background check bill [6] that failed in the Senate to the House floor for a vote, an extremely unlikely prospect given the death grip the NRA currently holds in the chamber.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pocketed $12,450 [2] in NRA cash in the last cycle, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) raked in $19,850 [2]. That is just the beginning – more than half of House members (242 [2] representatives) have an “A” rating with the NRA.

The more people who are aware of the connection between campaign contributions and voting records, the more transparent politics will be. Citizens have a responsibility to hold their lawmakers accountable. Consider sharing this information to help pierce the NRA armor.

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Recent NRA Donations to 45 Senators Who Killed Expanded Background Checks

Below is a senator-by-senator, state-by-state breakdown of what the NRA spent in campaign donations in each senator’s most recent election cycle. Everyone listed has an “A” NRA rating unless otherwise noted. The “N/A” designation means they were one of the seven who the NRA did not fund.

The New York Times has put together a terrific interactive map with the same information.

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), $4,500

Mark Begich (D-AK), N/A

Jeff Sessions (R-AL), A+, $4,950
Richard Shelby (R-AL), A+. $13,400

John Boozman, (R-AR), $4,950

Mark Pryor (D-AR), C-, N/A

Jeff Flake (R-AZ), $6,950

Marco Rubio (R-FL), B+. $4,950

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), A+, $12,200

Johnny Isakson (R-GA), $2,500

Chuck Grassley (R-IA), $6,950

Jim Risch (R-ID), A+, $14,850

Michael D. Crapo (R-ID), A+, $5950

Daniel Coats (R-IN), C+, N/A

Jerry Moran (R-KS), $7,950

Pat Roberts (R-KS), $5,950

Mitch McConnell (R-KY), $19,800

Rand Paul (R-KY), N/A

David Vitter (R-LA), $4,950

Roy Blunt (R-MO), N/A in Senate Race, however Blunt received $9,900 from the NRA in his 2010 House race.

Thad Cochran (R-MS), $8,500

Roger Wicker (R-MS), A+. $13,350

Max Baucus (D-MT), A+, $7,450

Richard Burr (R-NC), $7,900

Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), N/A

John Hoeven (R-ND), $4,950

Mike Johanns (R-NE), $4,800

Deb Fischer (R-NE), $4,950

Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), N/A

Harry Reid [7]  (D-NV), B, $8,950

Dean Heller (R-NV), $9,900

Rob Portman (R-OH), $9,900

Tom Coburn (R-OK). $2,000

James M. Inhofe (R-OK), A+. $8,400

Lindsey Graham (R-SC), $7,400

Tim Scott (R-SC), $2,000

John Thune (R-SD), A+, $7,500

Bob Corker (R-TN), $4,950

Lamar Alexander (R-TN), $9,900

John Cornyn (R-TX), $12,450

Ted Cruz (R-TX), A+. $9,900

Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), $5,000

Mike Lee (R-UT), $2,500

Ron Johnson (R-WI), $5,950

John Barrasso (R-WY), $17,349

Michael B. Enzi (R-WY), $5,950

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[3] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) $8,950 donation from the NRA is not included in the donation averages because he reportedly voted against the bill only as a procedural move to allow him to re-introduce it later.




[7] Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reportedly voted against the expanded background check bill as a procedural move to allow him to re-introduce it later.


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