To follow up on Paul’s post about the NRA’s role in manufacturing demand for firearms, we shouldn’t forget the staggering amounts of money it dumps into the political process:
But the NRA’s investment, which was more than any other outside group, paid for a slew of ads that directly targeted the same voters who propelled Trump to victory. The organization’s radio and television spots sought to cast Hillary Clinton and the Democratic rivals of its preferred Senate candidates as an existential threat to the Second Amendment, and national security. It is a message that resonates in the gun belt, a swath of primarily Southern and Midwestern states where Trump achieved some of his most consequential victories.
In October alone, according to the Center for Public Integrity, roughly one out of every 20 television ads in Pennsylvania was sponsored by the NRA. That same month, the group paid for one in nine ads in North Carolina, and one of every eight in Ohio. The ads imply that Clinton and Democrats would leave law-and-order abiding citizens defenseless. In one spot, a woman is alone in bed when a burglar breaks into her home. The narrator intones, “Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.”
Trump won all three states, and the NRA’s preferred Senate candidates also swept to victory.
The NRA’s largest 2016 outlay was the $30.3 million it spent in support of Trump.
In North Carolina, the group spent $6.2 million on the incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr, the most it has ever invested in a down-ballot race. Burr won by about six percentage points. Elsewhere, the NRA helped elect Senators Marco Rubio in Florida; Roy Blunt in Missouri; Todd Young in Indiana; and Rob Portman in Ohio. It spent between $2 million and $3.2 million on each of those races.
Did the NRA’s spending in itself swing any race? Probably not. But they were certainly an important part of the blizzard of money that helped the Republicans win critical Senate seats in North Carolina and Indiana. It was part of the third-party spending blitz that helped mitigate the Trump campaign’s relatively weak fundraising apparatus. And even when its huge donations are redundant in electoral terms, they help buy loyalty.
And it’s possible that they also served as a vehicle for Russian ratfucking:
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.