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Making NRA Membership Lists Public

Did I get your attention?

I figured that a title about campaign finance reform wouldn’t grab too many eyeballs. But telling people about the intended result of this “reform” probably would. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, but decided that Dave Kopel’s release of his June First Freedom article on the subject made the issue more relevant for the blog.

There is one key to the Schumer-backed DISCLOSE Act that makes it dangerous for gun owners who want to organize in any meaningful manner: disclosure of all donors/members whose money may have funded independent expenditures to the FEC.

According to The New York Times, a “reform” bill might require advocacy groups (such as NRA) “to identify all their financial donors or set up separate accounts to handle political spending and identify the donors to that account.”

Simply put: If NRA wants to use its general funds from member dues to speak out during election season, then NRA would have to give the federal government a list of every single NRA member.

The FEC donor databases are open to all, and the most user-friendly that makes looking up individuals easy and fast is the database available at OpenSecrets.org. Kopel uses the example that your boss could decide to cross-reference you to find out what you’re up to outside of work hours. At that point, you just have to hope he/she isn’t anti-gun, or you may find yourself in the unemployment line. Even if NRA maintains a separate fund for campaign expenditures, you can’t donate if you value your privacy.

We’re by far not the only issue concerned about these crazy disclosure agreements. The National Right to Life Committee is opposing the bill on the same grounds:

One of those regulations involves NRLC and other pro-life groups having to identify donors publicly anytime it runs communications in certain times that ask people to contact Congress about legislation related to pro-life concerns.

“Our members and supporters have a right to support our public advocacy about important and controversial issues without having their identifying information posted on the Internet, exposing them to harassment or retribution by those who may disagree with their beliefs,” NRLC concluded.

It’s pretty dangerous in some areas of the country to be socially conservative. See the harassment that same-sex marriage opponents faced in California as an exhibit of what pro-lifers – and possibly gun owners – could face.

Even the parts of the bill that aren’t dangerous for gun owners actively try to cut us off at the knees when it comes to political advertising. I’m not opposed to the spirit of an organization head doing a disclaimer as part of a commercial, but as specific as the DISCLOSURE Act is, it limits our options in order to cut our political effectiveness.

NRA advertisements always let you know that they’re paid for by NRA. Sometimes, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre appears as a spokesman in a commercial, while in others, it’s Chris W. Cox, chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund and executive director of NRA-ILA. Sometimes, NRA may choose to use someone else entirely. For example, Charlton Heston appeared in many NRA commercials during his long service to the Second Amendment.

The proposal would mean that in 1997, for example, when Heston— one of the most respected men in America—was an NRA officer but not president or CEO, an NRA commercial would have been required to cut the amount of time that Heston had to speak about the issues.

Anything that reduces the time we can put Chris Cox’s face & voice in front of female viewers is a loss for our issue. :)

In all seriousness, we have a diverse set of powerful leaders we can choose from at this point, and most Americans would probably agree that using any of them would meet the spirit of any disclosure laws. If Tom Selleck wants to get on screen as an NRA board member and talk about NRA-endorsed candidates or the issues at stake in a particular election, I’m sure most people would agree that it’s plenty transparent.

Politically, Congress still knows we can raise some hell on this issue. The House sponsor sat down with NRA recently to try and figure out their concerns, and they are specifically worried about last minute lobbying blitzes. It would seem that the pro-life groups and the Chamber of Commerce are planning to score the vote – and I suspect that the final product will determine whether or not NRA scores the vote. (If they do, Democrats may lose the votes they claim to have to pass it in the House.)

The Chamber has particular concerns about how this bill favors unions above other corporations:

For example, companies with government contracts worth $50,000 or more and those with foreign ownership would be banned from funding political ads and engaging in other campaign-related activity. The business group believes unions that receive federal grants, have collective bargaining agreements with the government or have international affiliates should be subject to similar limits.

Eugene Scalia, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and counsel to the Chamber, said the Disclose Act does not balance restrictions on corporations and unions equally, as previous campaign finance reform bills have.

“This bill is a departure from that tradition,” he said.

This is one of the reasons the NRLC argued the bill name should really stand for “Deterring Independent Speech about Congress except by Labor Organizations and Selected Elites.”

Right now, the bill has been postponed in the House. The committee vote was down party lines, and all efforts to make this bill more fair have been turned down based on party affiliation.

The intentional partisanship and one-sided nature of this was demonstrated by the defeat of a series of amendments in the committee mark-up that were proposed by Republicans. This included an amendment by Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.) that would have extended the prohibition on government contractors to any unions that have representational contracts with the government, as well as an amendment by Rep. Gregg Harper (R., Miss.) that would have extended the same ban to any other recipient of government grants, such as the liberal groups that receive so many federal earmarks and other funds. When Lungren tried to extend the political activity ban on corporations with foreign shareholders or corporate directors to unions that receive dues from foreign nationals, that was also rejected.

This bill has got to go down in defeat. NRA is a one-issue organization, but they also look out for our ability to talk about that issue with the public during election season. Because many people who aren’t paid members receiving the magazine pay attention to NRA’s messaging, any effort to silence their efforts will only hurt gun rights on Election Day.

17 Responses to “Making NRA Membership Lists Public”

  1. emdfl says:

    Sure, as long as the nitwh and his socialist contributor/supporters overseas have to be listed as well…

    • Bitter says:

      That’s the issue, depending on the structure of the organization, they might not have to be listed at all. Note the fact that unions will be treated differently than other corporations in a departure from decades of tradition in this area of law. In fact, the union’s backing seems to hinge upon them getting special treatment based on some of the articles I read about the bill.

      The point of pretty much all campaign finance “reform” is to suppress citizens speaking out as individuals or as a small group. The bills aren’t called “Incumbent Protection Acts” for no reason. This is just another effort to make it complicated and tough for groups to really get started in the political world.

  2. Tam says:

    Maybe we need a GONDA. ;)

  3. Pete says:

    It strikes me as interesting that the NRA stands up for 2nd Amendment rights, but also supports a lot of 1st Amendment things also, such as Stevens v US and lobbying against campgain finance reform.

    It also should come to a shock to no one that once again unions are getting sweet deals in this bill. Maybe the NRA should start its own “union” consisting of NRA members.

    • Bitter says:

      Stevens was technically a First Amendment issue, but it also is at the heart of being able to communicate with our people since it put the entire hunting media industry at risk. I still consider it to be Second Amendment work if Congress is trying to change laws to keep us from organizing & communicating.

      I don’t think NRA is going to go anywhere near the word union. To most of its audience, it turns them off. To a large minority, it’s going to piss them off since they are union guys. Everywhere I look around here, I see trucks with union stickers & NRA stickers. I saw the same in Wisconsin and Massachusetts, too. Most of the ones I’ve met (biased sample, of course) vote with NRA instead of their unions.

  4. divemedic says:

    But aren’t you interfering with a property owner’s rights by denying him the ability to know what kind of employees are entering his property?

  5. Robert says:

    But aren’t you interfering with a property owner’s rights by denying him the ability to know what kind of employees are entering his property?

    Non-sequiter. Property owners / employers don’t have a right to a government-produced list of other people’s activities.

  6. TheGrayBeard says:

    Linked to on my blog.

  7. divemedic says:

    Non-sequiter. Property owners / employers don’t have a right to a government-produced list of other people’s activities.

    Criminal background check?
    Plus, the last time I checked, a list of NRA members is not a government generated list.

    and FYI, it is spelled non sequitur. and I like pizza.

  8. Robert says:

    Criminal background check?

    Just because they have access to something, doesn’t make it a right. You don’t have a right to welfare, even though you have access to it. Similarly, employers don’t have a right to perform background checks using government databases, even though the government gives them access and, sometimes, requires them to do so by law. If those laws were revoked and access to criminal background history denied, they’d have no recourse, except for perhaps to try and build their own database using freely available data, such as the court records published in local newspapers.

    There is nothing inherent about property rights that requires a third party to compile data about any employees/visitors for your perusal.

  9. Robert says:

    Plus, the last time I checked, a list of NRA members is not a government generated list.

    And how do you suppose property owners would obtain such a list if the NRA doesn’t want to provide it? The government might not generate it, but in this case they would be providing it, to the objections of the people who DID generate it. Again, there is nothing inherent about property rights that gives property owners the right to use the government in such a manner.

  10. divemedic says:

    Don’t you all see how inconsistent your position is?

    It has been claimed (at various times here) that the right to property includes the right to exclude others from your property, including those with concealed weapons. I took the position that “concealed means concealed” and was told by many (here, at Tam’s, and at Unc’s) that this was still an intrusion on the property holder’s right to exclude me and my weapon.

    Now you are saying that a property owner may or may not have the right to exclude an NRA member, but that doesn’t matter, because he doesn’t have the right to even KNOW you are an NRA member. In this case, concealing the fact you are an NRA member means concealed? Somehow, according to this position, hiding the fact you are an NRA member to gain access doesn’t violate the property owner’s right to exclude, but concealing the fact that you have a weapon does?

    How do you reconcile two mutually exclusive positions? Do you really care about the property owner’s right to exclude? Or is that just a means to keep the big, scary guns away?

  11. If one is concerned about privacy, just start a corporation or trust and donate to the NRA through that vehicle.

    • Bitter says:

      And that goes to the point of what this legislation seeks to do – chill free speech and association. 99% of people who are concerned just won’t bother any more. They’ll give up and stop participating in the system. There’s a reason these things are called incumbent protection acts. The more people they can disengage from the system, the more likely they are to win re-election with little to no challenge.

  12. HeavenlySword says:

    I lol’d at the chris cox joke

  13. Interesting says:

    I would have loved to see congress try to pass these types of laws back when civil rights was a hot topic in the 50s and 60s. You want to donate to a civil rights group in the south? Great! Your name is now subject to lease so we can print it (and your address) in the local news papers friday so the local lynch mob knows which houses to burn down over the weekend.

    Why do liberals never look at things from the other side of the mirror like that?

  14. Reader says:

    Schumer is just that: a piece of schumer

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