Political Party Time

Sandy Hook hasn't dampened politicians' enthusiasm for gun fundraisers

Guns, politicians and parties? It has been a winning combination on the campaign fundraising trail. Despite the tragedy at Sandy Hook and subsequent reopening of the debate over gun control, that still appears to be true.

Last year, we looked at all of our fundraising data and found that since 2006, just shy of 70 lawmakers threw upwards of 110 events that somehow incorporated guns. Not surprisingly, the National Rifle Association – the country’s primary gun rights advocacy organization – provided  a popular Capitol Hill venue for Republicans and Democrats alike wanting to have a laser shootout-themed event. This is the one area where the gun partying appears to have pooped out. Although we counted 21 events at Southeast D.C. address since 2006, Party Time got only one early 2012 invitation to a party there, and it ended up getting canceled. Party Time has nothing at that location for 2013. Of course the NRA may still be hosting fundraisers, and the invitations are simply not finding their way to our database. If you have the scoop, please let us know about such events.)

But gun-loving politicians have found other venues to express themselves this year. Coming through the 2013 archives, Party Time found 14 fundraisers involving guns, all in the great outdoors.

MORE: Sunlight's coverage of the Sandy Hook anniversary .

Both of Idaho’s Republican senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (via his Freedom Fund leadership PAC), had skeet shooting fundraisers this summer at the Prince George’s County Trap & Skeet Center in Maryland.

Risch also had an Idaho-based hunting trip in January. The invite promised a long weekend full of events with a world champion shooter, a world champion duck caller and hunting with a former Navy SEAL.

More recently, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., put on an afternoon of target practice with pistols and rifles where attendees were encouraged to “bring your own gun.” Event organizers recommended leaving shotguns at home, but were willing to provide firearms for people who didn’t bring their own goods.

Two southern state politicians took advantage of their natural surroundings by planning alligator hunts for deep-pocketed donors. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., threw a $5,000-per-person Louisiana Bayou Weekend in September that featured a swamp tour and alligator hunt. And Florida Gov. Rick Scott followed suit in October with a $25,000-per-person Gator Hunt. But Scott scratched it once concerns about alligator hunting licenses came up (and after the event lit up social media).

Less menacing creatures were also on the hunting schedule this year. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, had his annual dove hunt in Hondo, and a $1,500 contribution earned individuals the designation of “host” of the event as well as entry into the raffle for a shotgun. A Pheasant Shoot benefiting Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., went down in March in Maryland. And Rep. Steve King, R-Texas, took to Twitter to celebrate a day of “successful” pheasant hunting with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during an October funder.

Del. Don Dwyer, who claims to be one of the most conservative members of the Maryland House of Delegates (and is certainly one of the most controversial, as he is currently serving a jail term for two incidents of driving--in one case driving a boat--while intoxicated), put on a gun raffle fundraiser in May. Raffle tickets went for $5 each, and people were limited to buying 10 tickets. The prize? An AR-15 or an AK-47.

Along the same lines, Missouri State Sen. Brian Nieves held a sports shooting and rifle raffle fundraiser in October. A Sig Sauer 516 Patrol AR-15 was up for grabs for attendees contributing at least $100.

While these politicians successfully use weekend hunts and target practice to fill up their campaign coffers, advocates on the other side of the issue, such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and former Rep. Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions – don't show up in our records as frequently.

According to Party Time’s data, Bloomberg hosted three fundraisers this year at his N.Y.C. home (two benefiting Cory Booker’s run for the New Jersey Senate seat and one for Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.) but none were tied directly to his advocacy group--that we know of. As for Giffords, we counted two fundraisers for her Americans for Responsible Solutions: a Young Professionals Reception in February and a raffle for a lobster dinner in Maine with Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly.

(Contributing: Peter Olsen-Phillips; Photo: iStockPhoto)