LO­CAL & STATE

None have taken gun-group’s do­na­tions since 2005

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Sweeney

In Florida, a state with a rep­u­ta­tion for gun-friend­li­ness, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion hasn’t given money to any state can­di­date for 13 years.

In Florida, a state with a rep­u­ta­tion for gun-friend­li­ness, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion hasn’t given money to any state can­di­date for 13 years.

A re­view of cam­paign fi­nance records for the NRA Po­lit­i­cal Vic­tory Fund, the gun­rights group’s po­lit­i­cal arm in Florida, shows it do­nated reg­u­larly to can­di­dates from 1996 un­til 2002, then just a hand­ful over the fol­low­ing three years. The last two can­di­dates to get money from the NRA — $500 each in 2005 — were Florida House can­di­date Marti Co­ley and Agri­cul­ture Com­mis­sioner Charles Bron­son.

After that, the NRA still reg­u­larly do­nated $10,000 once or twice a year to the Re­pub­li­can Party of Florida and cam­paign com­mit­tees tied to main­tain­ing House and Se­nate ma­jori­ties for Re­pub­li­cans. But after 2010, those checks stopped, as well.

As the cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions fiz­zled out, spend­ing on mail­ers and ads sky­rock­eted, up to a high of about $1.6 mil­lion for tele­vi­sion, ra­dio, In­ter­net and mail ads in­de­pen­dent of any po­lit­i­cal cam­paign in just the five weeks prior to the 2014 midterm and gov­er­nor elec­tions. Since then, the num­bers have been less strato­spheric — about $400,000 in 2016.

“In all my ca­reer, I have never seen a dol­lar bill walk into a vot­ing booth and vote, but peo­ple do,” said Mar­ion Ham­mer, the NRA’s lob­by­ist in Tal­la­has­see. “The NRA has peo­ple and we vote.”

It’s those votes, not do­na­tions, that the NRA counts on for its po­lit­i­cal clout. The group lets mem­bers know where politi­cians stand through a rat­ing sys­tem, pub­lished an­nu­ally, based on their votes, pub­lic state­ments and re­sponses to a ques­tion­naire.

The NRA’s na­tional po­lit­i­cal com­mit­tee con­tin­ues to give to fed­eral elected of­fi­cials from Florida, in­clud­ing U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio and at least a dozen of the state’s Re­pub­li­can con­gress­men. And the NRA Foun­da­tion gives in other ways, in­clud­ing $126,000 to the Broward County School Dis­trict for its JROTC pro­gram, an As­so­ci­ated Press re­port found. After the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas school shoot­ing, the dis­trict said it would no longer ac­cept money from the group. Ac­cord­ing to Ham­mer, do­na­tions at the state level stopped for prag­matic rea­sons.

“We stopped giv­ing cash con­tri­bu­tions be­cause ev­ery time we gave a con­tri­bu­tion to a can­di­date, the me­dia ac­cused NRA of buy­ing leg­is­la­tors,” Ham­mer said. “Of course, when the Florida Cham­ber of Com­merce, the Florida Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion, the Florida As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors, the Florida Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, Teach­ers Union, or the AFL-CIO gave the same amount or more, they were never ac­cused of buy­ing any­body.”

That’s not the case in other states. Cam­paign fi­nance re-

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