Thursday, August 11, 2005

NRA Buys A Few Democratic Votes

The National Rifle Association (NRA) may be scummy but they're not stupid. They give a very small amount of money to Democrats and, when they do, they make damn sure it's money well spent.

So the NRA was watching very closely on July 29 when the U. S. Senate voted on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (S. 397). Sponsored by Larry Craig (R-ID), who – surprise! – has collected almost $30,000 in NRA donations, the bill was written specifically to limit liability for firearm manufacturers and dealers when citizens attempt to sue because of harm brought by their products.

To quote the legislation, S. 397 was intended "To prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others."

The legislation passed by a Senate vote of 65-31. As expected, every Republican Senator voted in the NRA's interests but, surprisingly enough, so did 14 Democrats.

The NRA was ecstatic.

"This action represents a major first step toward ending the anti-gun lobby's extreme and immoderate attempts to bankrupt the firearm industry through reckless, predatory lawsuits, and was a ground breaking step forward for law-abiding firearm manufacturers, retailers and owners in this country," said the NRA.

What is instructive is to look at how NRA donations to the few Democrats who get gun-lobby money, paid off for them. In looking at Federal Election Commission filings, we found that only seven (sitting) Senate Democrats received money from the NRA between 1989 and 2004. Here's who has taken money from the most powerful force in the gun lobby, along with the amount received in that 15-year period:

  • Ben Nelson (D-NE) $19,600
  • Max Baucus (D-MT) $14,850
  • Kent Conrad (D-ND) $5,500
  • Tim Johnson (D-SD) $10,500
  • Byron Dorgan (D-ND) $5,450
  • Harry Reid (D-NV) $9,000
  • Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) $1,000

And, in an astounding coincidence, all seven of these senators sided with the NRA, voting in favor of this bill. (Equally amazing is that seven other Democratic Senators, who received no cash from the NRA, voted in favor of this transparent gift to the firearms industry.)

Almost without fail, the Democrats who got the money also voted against every amendment made by fellow Democrats to modify this legislation to make it less gun-friendly.

All seven receiving NRA largesse voted against an amendment that would have allowed lawsuits against the gun industry if injuries to children were involved. And, all but Rockefeller were against an amendment to expand the definition of what kind of armor piercing ammunition would have still been actionable under this bill.

So there you have it.

As you know, the Yellow Dog doesn't go out of his way to make Democrats look bad. But we can't just ignore it when Democratic Senators vote like gun-toting Republicans—and do so because they've received cash from the NRA.

When Democrats accept money from the NRA and vote in ways that make the gun lobby so happy, it's time for the rest of us to sit up and take notice.