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“Why the NRA is Struggling”

January 22, 2019

A new piece by Vox takes a look at how the NRA and its agenda have fared under Donald Trump’s presidency, and finds “things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.” Between its outright failure to enact its top priorities at the federal level, including concealed carry reciprocity; its midterm election disappearing act; continuing scrutiny into its ties to Russia; and questionable financial outlook, the last two years have been a Category 5 disaster for the NRA:

Vox – “Why the NRA is Struggling”
Legislative defeats, financial problems, and a surprisingly difficult ally in the White House.

By Jane Coaston

“National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre bragged at the beginning of 2017, ‘We have the next eight years alongside President Trump to undo the Obama transformation of America and set our country back on its rightful, righteous course of freedom.’

“But nearly two years later, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for the nation’s largest and most powerful gun rights organization.

“A particularly low point came during the 2018 midterm elections, when the NRA was outspent by gun control groups for the first time in recent history, even while allegedly coordinating with GOP candidates in two states.

“The NRA has also been enveloped in a Department of Justice investigation into Russian efforts to influence US politics that featured Russian nationals using the organization as a conduit to the Republican Party. It’s been decried for paying millions of dollars to contractors and close associates of the organization while laying off dozens of employees. And that doesn’t even mention that between January 2017 and November 2018, two of the NRA’s biggest legislative initiatives resulted in failure — derailed by high-profile mass shootings.

“The NRA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“In concrete terms, there was perhaps no better time for the NRA to flex its political muscle than January 2017, with Trump safely ensconced in the White House and Republicans in charge of both the House and Senate. During the 2016 election cycle, the group spent $30.3 million to get Trump into office, with millions more spent on six Republicans running in competitive Senate races in 2016. In North Carolina, “Sen. Richard Burr’s campaign received $6.2 million, the most the group had ever spent on a down-ballot race.

“Yet with the ‘wind at their backs,’ as one source told me, the group was unable to get its major legislative priorities — the expansion of concealed carry and a change to laws restricting gun silencers — passed while Republicans had full control of Washington in 2017 and 2018.

“Whether because of Trump or not, the NRA itself is taking a hit, perhaps because with the GOP in charge of the White House, donating to an organization purportedly standing up for gun rights seems less essential.

“The NRA’s revenue from membership dues — a one-year membership costs $45 — has dropped 21 percent since 2016, from $163 million to $128 million, according to the nonpartisan transparency organization OpenSecrets. Other donations to the NRA dropped too, from $128 million in 2016 to $98 million in 2017. That revenue drop has led to cost-cutting measures across the organization, from raising the cost of dues to dropping free coffee and water at its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters to major layoffs at the group’s media outlet, NRATV.

“But most importantly, the revenue drop dramatically impacted how involved the NRA got in the 2018 midterm elections. The group got involved in about half the races in 2018 that it did during the previous midterm cycle, and the amount it spent dropped as well — from $25 million in 2014 to less than half that this cycle.”


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