Political Party Time

Lawmakers mix campaign giving and guns

In the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting, many lawmakers are calling for stricter gun safety laws, but Party Time data shows that many more members use guns in their fundraising efforts.

Since 2006, almost 70 legislators have thrown more than 110 fundraisers that involve firearms as part of the event, including weekend hunting excursions, skeet shooting or a virtual shooting game at the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters.

The NRA, the premier Second Amendment and gun ownership advocacy organization in the United States, hosted at least 13 events for members over the past four years, while the organization's offices near the Capitol have been the venue for more than 20 other fundraisers. Three current members of Congress have held multiple events at the NRA: Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa. (Altmire won't be current for long though -- he lost a primary battle to Rep. Mark Critz, a fellow Democrat -- who in turn lost to Republican Keith Rothfus. Altmire is leaving the House to work as a lobbyist for Florida Blue, the Sunshine State's Blue Cross insurance provider.)

Often seen as the most prominent organization countering the NRA, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence does not appear in the Party Time database at all.

NRA lobbyists have also appeared at several parties over the past several years. Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre was on the host committee for a recent Romney Victory, Inc. reception in Evansville, Ind. Jeff Freeman has hosted five events, though PT hasn't picked up on any since 2010.

And the connections don't stop there. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., recently hosted the latest installment of his "Annual Blunt Hunt" among other gun-associated events. The senator has consistently received an "A" rating from the NRA for his staunch support of the gun community, and the organization endorsed him in the 2010 election cycle. And his son, Matt Blunt, serves on the NRA's board of directors.

Blunt is not alone in his tendency to combine a love of guns with cash. PT's data includes more than 90 fundraisers that involved live firearms. Here's a list of the members that most frequently combine raising campaign funds with firearms:

--Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn. -- 5 hunting/shooting events, including goose hunting and quail hunting weekends
--Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark. -- 5 hunting/shooting events, including an annual skeet shoot and duck hunt
--Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. -- 4 hunting/shooting events, including his 8th Annual Oklahoma Dove Hunt
--Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va. -- 4 hunting/shooting events, including an annual dove hunt
--Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Penn. -- 4 hunting/shooting events, including a skeet shooting and a dove hunt
--Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho -- 4 hunting/shooting events, including a trap and skeet shoot and the "Annual Hook 'n' Bullet"

Perhaps the most controversial fundraiser involving a gun occurred when John McCaherty, a Republican state legislator from Missouri, tried to raffle off an AR 15 assault rifle last July. Having supporters pay $25 for a chance to win a weapon (a semiautomatic assault weapon, at that) is contentious enough; but to make matters worse, the unusual prize turned out to be the same model of firearm used in the Aurora, Colo. shooting that had happened just a few days earlier.

More information about the political influence of guns can be found here via the Sunlight Foundation.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons author Motohide Miwa)