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The real reason the NRA wins

The real reason the NRA wins

To its many critics, the National Rifle Association is a bottomless source of funds able to buy off politicians everywhere in order to protect gun rights.

In reality, the NRA is a medium-sized interest group that is undoubtedly influential, but is nowhere near the biggest spender in politics. Its ability to stave off gun-control laws in the aftermath of school massacres may have more to do with its effectiveness as an advocacy group, honed over decades, than with the amount of money it spends.

The NRA has one other advantage: The opposition is poorly funded. While polls show Americans generally favor stricter gun laws—and outrage seems to be mounting following the February 14 mass murder at a Florida high school—that hasn’t generated a spending surge on gun-control candidates. In the 2016 election cycle, the NRA outspent the leading gun-control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, by at least 4-to-1—and possibly by much more. Among advocacy groups that tend to support Democrats and liberal causes, the big money goes toward environmental issues and women’s rights, not gun control.

The National Rifle Association, founded in 1871, in a nonprofit group with annual revenue of around $400 million. That might sound like a lot, but if it were a public company, the NRA would be much smaller than any firm listed on the S&P 500 stock index.

Its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, gets paid like a big-league boss, however. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.

The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. The NRA spent $5.1 million on lobbying in 2017, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That wasn’t nearly enough to crack the top 20.

The biggest lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent $82 million last year, or 16 times what the NRA spent. Granted, the U.S. Chamber is corporate America’s biggest backer in Washington, funded by many of the nation’s largest companies. Unlike the NRA, it lobbies on a broad range of issues. But several individual companies, including Oracle, Amazon and Comcast, all spent at least twice as much as the NRA on lobbying. Blue Cross/Blue Shield spent nearly five times as much.

ninth biggest outside-spending organization. Still, dwarfing that tally were two Democratic groups at the top of the list, Priorities USA (which spent $133 million on Democratic candidates) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($104 million). NextGen Climate Action, funded largely by California billionaire Tom Steyer, spent $96 million on Democratic candidates who support efforts to combat climate change. There is no gun-control PAC or su

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