Report: NRA shoots blanks this election

The National Rifle Association (NRA) all but struck out this election in its quest to build a Congress more favorable to gun rights, according to a new nonpartisan report.

The Sunlight Foundation, a campaign watchdog group, found that the NRA's Political Victory Fund – the political arm of the nation's largest gun lobbying organization – spent almost $11 million for or against individual candidates in the general elections, but got less than a 1 percent return on its investment.

The NRA, for instance, spent more than $7.4 million in opposition to President Obama and almost $1.9 million in support of Mitt Romney, according to Sunlight. But Obama was the victor on Tuesday, and the NRA had similar bad luck trying to influence Senate and House races.

For example, the group put almost $538,000 behind Indiana Senate contender Richard Mourdock (R), who lost, and spent more than $512,000 to oppose Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who won, according to Sunlight.

The list goes on.

Not that the NRA struck out entirely this cycle. Overall, the group supported 27 candidates who were victorious on Tuesday, and opposed five others who ultimately lost, Sunlight found. But those 32 success stories represented only 0.81 percent of the group's spending on general elections this cycle, the report said.

The figures challenge the popular political wisdom that the NRA is among Washington's most influential lobbying forces and that candidates who buck their agenda do so at their own peril. Indeed, the GOP's wave election of 1994 is often attributed to the NRA backlash against the Democrats for passing gun reforms the same year. And some political observers have similarly linked Al Gore's defeat in the 2000 presidential contest to his support for tougher gun laws.

Advocates for gun reforms have been quick this week to highlight the NRA's return-on-investment figures, saying the group's track record this election cycle is an indication that the gun lobby's influence on Capitol Hill is overblown.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group, issued a post-election statement calling the NRA's sway over elections a "myth."

In compiling its report, Sunlight tallied the spending of 30 outside groups that spent the most this year on general elections, and examined how their candidates fared.

The group with the best return on investment was Planned Parenthood Votes, a reproductive rights group, which saw a 99 percent return on its spending. The NRA's 0.81 percent ranked last.

An NRA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.