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Eleven lawmakers have used campaign funds to pay NRA dues: report

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Eleven sitting lawmakers have used campaign funds to pay membership dues to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

McClatchy reports two current senators and nine current House members have used campaign funds to pay dues to the NRA and associated entities since 2004. The amounts range from $25 to $1,500, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

Campaigns for Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) have both spent at least $1,000 on NRA dues. Gohmert’s campaign paid the organization $1,500 in 2016, while Blunt’s campaign spent $1,000 on dues in 2010.

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A spokesman for Blunt told McClatchy that the senator was a lifetime member of the NRA, but didn’t say if the 2010 payment was related to his membership.

One Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Gene Green (Texas) has also used campaign funds on NRA dues, paying the group $300 in 2011.

The FEC bans lawmakers from spending campaign money on personal expenses, but it does allow for those funds to be used on “membership dues in an organization that may have political interests.”

Those rules also contain a stipulation called the “irrespective test,” which prohibits the use of funds to pay an expense that “would exist even in the absence of the candidacy or even if the officeholder were not in office.”

The general counsel at the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center told McClatchy the key question is how lawmakers view their NRA membership as it relates to their office and if they would be a dues-paying member if they weren’t an elected official.

“Are they saying they would not be a member of the NRA if they weren’t an officeholder?” he told McClatchy.

The NRA has spent over $1 million on elections in the 2018 cycle, according to Open Secrets. It also spent $30 million to back President Trump in the 2016 presidential race.

The focus on lawmakers’ connections to the gun rights group has intensified in recent days following the mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.

After the shooting, gun control advocates and some Democratic lawmakers renewed calls for tightening gun laws, particularly for those with mental illnesses. 

Republicans, many of whom are now under scrutiny for taking large campaign donations from the NRA, have warned that the shooting should not be politicized or used to implement measures that some lawmakers say would not have prevented the murder spree. 

In the hours after the shooting, the New York Daily News used its Twitter account to highlight contributions made by the NRA to sitting Republican lawmakers, and The New York Times editorial board in Friday insisted that the “NRA can be beat” during the 2018 midterms.

Tags campaign funds Donald Trump Gene Green Gene Green Louie Gohmert National Rifle Association NRA Roy Blunt Roy Blunt

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