The NRA And The Blue Dogs... It's Complicated
Last December I wrote that Ben Ray Luján, Pelosi's pick to head the DCCC-- the guy who would be in charge of recruiting, training and electing House Democrats-- was still one of the conservative Democrats on the payroll of the gun lobbyists. As recently as 2005 there were dozens of House Democrats who routinely sided with the NRA and who solicited NRA contributions, mostly Blue Dogs and New Dems. Almost all of them have, since then, been defeated either in primaries-- gun nut Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA) is a good example-- or in general elections where Democratic voters just refused in come out and vote for them. Not many Democrats were still taking blood money from the NRA and other gun-nut oganizations in the last cycle. These are still current House members who were still voting with the NRA and still taking money from them and the other gun groups:
• Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $84,500Dan Friedman, writing for The Trace asserts in a provocatively titled piece, Meet the Last NRA Democrat, that this cycle there's just one NRA Democrat left, very right-wing Texas Blue Dog, Henry Cuellar. So far this cycle, gun rights groups have given $1,441,329 to Republican congressional candidates and just $32,951 to Democrats. Their biggest contributions went to Speaker Paul Ryan ($29,285) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ($26,100), but with most of their Democratic allies defeated, the only House Democrats who have received any money from any of the gun groups so far in the cycle are:
• Gene Green (TX)- $46,750
• Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- $47,815
• Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $25,450
• Tim Ryan (OH)- $20,996
• Ron Kind (New Dem Chairman-WI)- $32,482
• Mike Thompson (Blue Dog-CA)- $50,379
• Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $2,900
• Tim Walz (MN)- $18,950
• Jim Clyburn (SC)- $9,900
• Ben Ray Luján (NM, Chairman DCCC)- $5,500
• Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog Chairman-OR)- $5,000
• Loretta Sanchez (Blue Dog-CA)- $1,500
• Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $2,000
• Gene Green (TX)- $2,000
• Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)- $2,000
• Ben Ray Lujan (NM)- $2,000
• Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $2,000
• Tim Walz (MN- $2,000)
Senators Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN), Martin Heinrich (NM), Heidi Heitkamp (ND) have each taken $2,000 and Joe Manchin (WV) took $1,000.
That $2,000 to Cuellar, who used to brag he was George W. Bush's favorite Democrat, included the $1,000 that the NRA has given to any Democrat in 2016.
In his 11 years in Congress, Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, Texas, has made a habit of vexing his political party. Cuellar, one of eight children born to migrant worker parents, endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, voted against abortion funding, and called for sped-up deportation of undocumented children who cross the Mexican border.
This year, Cuellar achieved another unusual distinction: He is, at least for now, the lone Democratic congressional candidate, incumbent or otherwise, who has received a campaign donation this election cycle from the National Rifle Association, according to data tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics. (This calculation reflects reporting through March 31.) Cuellar did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not too late for the NRA to back other candidates in the 2016 elections, of course, [and there is no doubt that they will pony up for gun-nut Collin Peterson again] but an analysis of the recent history of the gun group’s election spending suggests that the NRA will donate few, if any, other Democrats.
The NRA has leaned Republican since at least the early 1990s, but as recently as halfway through the first term of President Barack Obama, it still supported many Democrats standing for election to Congress, especially in the South and West.
For the 2010 campaign cycle, the gun group gave more than $350,000 in direct contributions to 65 Democratic House candidates. By 2014, almost all that support had disappeared: The gun group donated just $38,000 to only 12 Democratic campaigns.
Representative Filemon Vela, another Democratic Texan, received his only NRA donation in 2012, $1,000, during his first congressional campaign. In an interview, he said that he didn’t recall the contribution. NRA lobbyists visited him after his election, but, he says, “I never heard from them again.”
NRA giving to Senate Democrats has also disappeared. The last such candidate to receive an NRA donation was West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin in 2012, who received $6,500 from the group. That contribution was made before the Sandy Hook massacre, and before Manchin, along with Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, introduced legislation to close the so-called background check loophole. (The bill failed in the Senate amid fierce NRA opposition.)
...Of the 30 Democrats who received direct support from the NRA in 2012, a dozen still hold their House seats. They include Sanford Bishop of Georgia, Kurt Schrader of Oregon, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
The plummet in the NRA support for Democrats highlights the group’s increasingly partisan posture, which is at odds with its past attempts to avoid party allegiances. It also highlights bigger political shifts.
Both major political parties have moved into more clearly defined ideological and regional groupings. In the 2010 election, 30 conservative Democrats, many of them members Blue Dog Coalition who tended to oppose gun regulation, lost to Republicans as the Tea Party won congressional seats for the first time.
The result has left fewer Democrats representing voters who put a premium on gun rights, and fewer Republicans whose constituents focus on issues such as abortion rights.
“Most organizations that have an ideological bent have become partisan organizations as the parties have become more homogenous,” David Wasserman, who covers House races for the Cook Political Report, tells The Trace. “It’s not exclusive to the NRA. We see it with Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign. They have become Democratic organizations almost exclusively.”
Manchin says he thinks the gun lobby has erred by not trying to work with him on background check legislation. “You would think the NRA would be reaching out to people like me that really believe staunchly in defending the Second Amendment, but also in trying to find a balance with just some common sense,” he says.
Manchin says the NRA no longer resembles the group he “grew up in … that taught gun safety and responsibility.”