NRA takes flak for ties with left


The National Rifle Association, the powerful lobbying group that has been a longtime nemesis of liberals, is facing mounting criticism from influential allies on the right and even from its own board over a series of recent moves they say are selfish, short-sighted and ultimately harmful to the conservative movement.

Critics cite a list of transgressions, from considering an endorsement of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), to endorsing moderate Republicans — and even Democrats — rather than their more-conservative challengers, to taking a cautious approach to Second Amendment court cases and President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees.

And they are especially angry about the group’s willingness to play ball with Democratic leaders on campaign finance legislation vigorously opposed by congressional Republicans, powerful business groups and nearly the entire conservative movement.

Republican congressional leaders have privately conveyed their unhappiness to NRA officials, but online conservative activists linked to the tea party movement have been vociferous in their criticism.

“The NRA is all about the NRA — helping their organization and not necessarily the cause,” said influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson, who has repeatedly taken to his blog RedState in recent weeks to urge conservatives to turn their backs on the NRA.

“There’s an argument to be made that we either hang together or all hang separately in the conservative movement,” he told POLITICO, adding, “A lot of conservatives think the NRA has become much more interested in wooing the bipartisan label than in being really effective Second Amendment fighters.”

Erickson has expressed his preference for the smaller but more reliably GOP-leaning Gun Owners of America, which he called “a consistent and uncompromising defender of the Second Amendment, not a weak little girl of an organization protecting itself while throwing everyone else under the bus.”

The NRA’s defenders say the powerful 138-year-old gun-rights group is simply doing what’s necessary to maintain its seat at the table in a town completely controlled for at least another six months by Democrats.

Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, said the criticism ignores the reason the NRA is such a powerful brand: that it focuses on its core mission of advancing gun owners’ rights, rather than on trying to advance the goals of the conservative movement, writ large.

“We are part of the conservative movement, but the Second Amendment is unique because it transcends politics; it transcends race, gender, socioeconomic and certainly partisan lines,” he said. “I may have strong personal views on a lot of things — whether it’s health care, immigration, the bank bailouts, taking over car companies, all those things — but that’s not my job. My job and my fiduciary responsibility is to get up every day and protect the Second Amendment.”

He added that many of the groups now criticizing the NRA haven’t helped it in Second Amendment fights and took an oblique shot at Erickson, asserting that “some people would like to use the Second Amendment to drive eyes to a blog.”

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