During a recent interview with National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, Glenn Beck wondered if the NRA would be able to raise the money to effectively launch political attacks against President Obama in 2012. Not surprisingly, LaPierre was confident the NRA would be able to fund a 2012 campaign blitz. Depicting unions as a political counter weight to the gun lobby, Beck asked LaPierre how the NRA could hope to match campaign spending by unions:
BECK: You have to go out and drum up the money, the unions just take it. They just have it. They just take it out of everybody's paycheck.
LAPIERRE: We raise it all through 5, 10, 15, 20 dollar contributions that Americans are willing to preserve freedom. And they're willing to support it. But, you know, that's what NRA is about. I mean, I always say we're about our membership and we're about giving voice to our membership.
There's no doubt that as in previous election cycles, the NRA will be able to funnel tens of millions of dollars towards their favored candidates, but LaPierre's claim that the NRA's fundraising is based exclusively on small dollar donations is false. The reality is that under LaPierre's leadership, the NRA has built extensive financial ties to the gun industry and other corporations. These arrangements have netted the NRA tens of millions dollars according to a recent Bloomberg News account and the gun companies funneling cash into the NRA's coffers have greatly benefited from the NRA's lobbying efforts. One former president of the NRA credited NRA-backed legislation that limited the legal liability of gun makers with saving “the American gun industry from bankruptcy.”
The NRA pitches itself as a low-dollar, grassroots organization -- an annual membership currently costs $35 -- and maintains it is “not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deal in guns and ammunition.” However, the NRA has formally established many lucrative arrangements with “corporate partners.”
Last April, the Violence Policy Center issued a report, titled Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bank Rolls the NRA, which details these intimate ties between the gun industry and the NRA. From Blood Money:
Since 2005, corporations--gun related and other--have contributed between $19.8 million and $52.6 million to the NRA as detailed in its Ring of Freedom corporate giving program. In a promotional brochure for the program, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promises that the “National Rifle Association's newly expanded Corporate Partners Program is an opportunity for corporations to partner with the NRA....This program is geared toward your company's corporate interests.”
And in December, Bloomberg News reported:
From 2004 to 2010, the group's revenue from fundraising -- including gifts from gun makers who benefit from its political activism -- grew twice as fast as its income from members' dues, according to NRA tax returns.
Like other organizations, the NRA has also tried to derive extra income from its members by selling corporations access to them. Affinity partnerships with various companies “have paid the NRA tens of millions of dollars in royalties,” the association said in a 2003 court filing.
The article described the NRA's high-level donor group the “Golden Ring of Freedom” and industry support from gun makers Sturm Ruger, Smith & Wesson, MidwayUSA and Remington.