Why is NRA spending down for Congress in the 2018 midterms?

The National Rifle Association’s political spending is sharply down heading into the 2018 midterm elections, a shift that could reflect declining fundraising in the wake of a string of mass shootings and an FBI investigation into the group’s ties.

The politically potent gun advocacy group has this year spent one-tenth of what it had spent politically at this point in 2014, according to the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.

So far, the NRA’s political action committee and political non-profit arm have spent just over $1.6 million in 2018 on outside expenditures, such as political attack ads, and direct campaign contributions to federal candidates and groups, compared to more than $16 million on similar expenses at this point in 2014.

That decline comes as the FBI investigates whether the group illegally received money from Russia to fuel its support of President Donald during the 2016 election and as the group has seen a decline in dues that has deepened the group’s operating deficit.

And it comes in a year when more than half the states in the country have passed gun safety measures in the wake of protests following the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students dead, and other deadly shootings before it. Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the nation’s worst mass shooting, in which 58 people died and several hundred were injured on the Las Vegas Strip.

“I think in a lot of places they have a popularity problem,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of The Cook Political Report. She said the shootings and the Russia inquiry could both be taking its toll.

“Their strategy is don’t give an inch,” because then you might have to give a second inch, Duffy said. “I think that that was a strategy that served them pretty well for a while and now they’re paying a price for it.”

The NRA didn’t comment on whether it is seeing a decline in donations, but provided a statement to McClatchy after publication.

“While the NRA doesn’t have billions to spend, we have a formidable grassroots organization. Our strength has always been the tens of millions of NRA members and Second Amendment supporters who consistently go to the polls and vote for candidates who support our constitutional right to self defense. “

Gallup found in June that, while a majority of Americans still hold a favorable view of the gun-rights organization, fewer support the group now than did in 2015.

The NRA has spent less than half the $3.6 million laid out this year by the gun safety political action committee PAC, created by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011 at a constituent meeting in a Tucson suburb. Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has spent just under $1.5 million so far, nearly matching the NRA.

So far the two sides have largely focused on different races, with the bulk of the NRA’s spending focused on Senate races and the majority of spending by the gun safety groups targeting House races.

 

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