By their donors, we shall know them. That's because political money from lobbying groups, industry associations and other interests naturally goes to candidates considered supportive or potentially helpful.
So when six of the seven Republicans in Michigan's U.S. House delegation receive donations from the National Rifle Association's political committee, it shows they're allies of the leading gun rights group. The lone exception is Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, who has been in Congress since 1987 and early last month announced that he won't seek a 19th term.
His delegation-mates have shared $38,607 from the NRA's Political Victory Fund, according to a Federal Election Commission database examined by Deadline Detroit amid fresh attention to the association's opposition to gun law changes.
"Congress ... has been corrupted by powerful interest groups, allowing those groups to block even modest changes that the vast majority of Americans support," The New York Times says in an editortial four days after an elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
Michigan's seven Democrats in the House haven't received campaign support from the rifle association or other firearms interests, according to a spreadsheet posted by OpenSecrets, an independent research nonprofit in Washington, D.C. It says Republicans accounted for 97% of NRA congressional campaign donations in the 2019-20 election cycle. That amounted to $638,035 for Republicans and $12,800 for Democrats.
Four of this state's beneficiaries -- Reps. Jack Bergman, Bill Huizenga, John Moolenaar and Tim Walberg -- have received serial support for three to nine years. Walberg got the most -- nearly $19,000. (Details below.)
The delegation's other recipients, Reps. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids and Lisa McClain of Macomb County, each got $1,000 from the association in September 2020 -- two months before winning office. Neither has been helped yet during 2021-22 as they seek a second term.
The NRA's impact on national gun legislation, and on some states' policies, is back in the spotlight after the Texas school shooting by a teen who bought an assault rifle soon after reaching 18. "Money plays a critical role in the story of NRA influence," Vox news site posted a few years ago.
The NRA spending ultimately leads to policies that run counter to the expressed preferences of the majority of Americans. ...
Gun control advocates, meanwhile, are in the unenviable position of having the more popular policy stance but not the funding to mobilize voters around it.
Here's what records show about the NRA committee's gifts to four multiple-term Michigan Republicans running again to keep their U.S. House seats:
► Jack Bergman of Watersmeet: $8,450 in four donations, beginning with the biggest a month after he first was elected -- $4,950 on Dec. 9, 2016. (He also got $500 in 2018 from the National Shooting Sports Federation.)
► Bill Huizenga of Zeeland: $5,150, starting with a token $150 when he first ran in 2010. Once elected, the Ottawa County congressman got $1,000 every two years -- though nothing is reported yet for 2021-22. (He deposited $1,000 from the shooting sports group four years ago.)
► John Moolenaar of Midland: $4,107 in three contributions since 2020.
► Tim Walberg of Tipton: $18,900 since fall 2006, including $2,500 for that year's unsuccessful camapign and nearly $2,000 for another try in 2008. On Election Eve in 2010, the Lenawee County politician banked $4,950 from the Political Victory Fund a day before victory at the polls. Then he received $1,000 to $2,000 in six installments from 2012-21, with the latest landing four days before last Christmas.
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