Nebraska’s congressional representatives have all benefited from campaign spending by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups, according to campaign finance records.
The current four have also generally opposed legislation to tighten gun control.
US senses Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse earned NRA A ratings during their careers. Representatives Don Bacon and Adrian Smith voted against two gun control bills last week, which passed largely partisan votes in the House of Representatives.
But as gun laws have re-emerged as a major political issue in the wake of recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, it’s unclear what role the Money from gun rights groups played into their positions on gun legislation.
Nebraska’s congressmen are all Republicans who were elected with conservative political views. Virtually all campaign spending by gun rights groups goes to boosting Republicans.
The delegation also represents a state in which about half of households own guns and which ranks in the middle on measures of the stringency of gun laws. Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates gun restrictions and policies to prevent gun violence, rated the state 20th best for strength of gun law. Meanwhile, AZ Defenders, an Arizona-based criminal law firm, listed him as 27th most gun friendly.
Sasse, the junior senator from Nebraska, has raised the most campaign dollars for gun rights since he first ran for office in 2014, according to information available on the website. opensecrets.orgwho follows the money in politics.
Gun rights groups spent $95,983 to get him elected, including $18,818 in direct campaign contributions and $77,165 in independent expenses. (The Federal Election Commission defines independent expenses such as those that communicate support or opposition to a candidate but are not done in coordination with that candidate.)
This includes money from the NRA, the most well-known gun rights group; the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gun manufacturers; Gun Owners of America, which markets itself as an “uncompromising” gun lobby; and Safari Club International, a pro-hunting organization.
Bacon, who represents the Omaha-focused 2nd District in the House, has the second-highest total, $50,088, in his four election campaigns. He received $19,500 in direct contributions, while gun rights groups invested $30,588 in independent efforts. Independent spending included efforts to boost Bacon and, in the 2018 campaign, to oppose Kara Eastman, the Democratic candidate.
Fischer, the state’s senior senator, came third, with gun rights groups spending $49,795 on her election since 2012. The total includes $12,450 in campaign contributions and $37,525 $ in independent spending, including money spent opposing Democratic nominee, former U.S. senator. Bob Kerrey in 2012.
The smallest total, but the largest amount of direct campaign contributions, went to U.S. Representative Adrian Smith, who represents the sprawling 3rd District. He received $34,650 in donations from gun advocacy groups in his eight elections. The groups did not incur any independent expenditure.
The seat of Nebraska’s 1st District House is vacant following the resignation of U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry. State Sense. Mike Flood, a Republican, and Patty Pansing Brooks, a Democrat, contest a special election to fill the remaining months of Fortenberry’s term.
Fischer and Sasse did not respond to requests for comment on the money from gun advocacy groups. Bacon and Smith said they base their votes on factors other than campaign spending.
“I do not base my votes on political contributions, but on my oath to the Constitution, my promises to my constituents, and the opinions of Nebraska’s 2nd District,” Bacon said, noting that organizations typically contribute to candidates whose positions most aligned with theirs.
In recent House votes, he said he was also swayed by a May 11 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a California law to raise the purchase age for cars. semi-automatic weapons at 21, compared to 18 years previously. House bills would raise the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles to 21.
Tiffany Haverly, Smith’s spokeswoman, said his “votes in Congress are determined by the feedback he receives from Nebraskanians.”
Gavin Geis, executive director of Common Cause Nebraska, said the money from gun rights groups for Nebraska representatives pales in comparison to the contributions they receive from other industries and advocacy groups. interests.
For example, Bacon’s campaign contributions received in 2019 and 2020 totaled more than $3.3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. That figure alone dwarfs the $19,500 in total direct contributions Bacon has received from gun rights groups since he first ran for Congress in 2016.
Some analysts say the gun rights lobby wields its power largely through its ability to mobilize gun owners to get out and vote, as well as contact elected officials in favor or in opposition to legislation. .
Still, Geis said the donations from gun advocacy groups carry weight.
“These donations are still enormous relative to what the average Nebraska is able to contribute to campaigns, and should raise the question of whether our federal representatives are listening to Nebraska voters or their outside funders,” he said. declared.
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