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The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in American politics. First chartered in New York in 1871, the association’s initial stated goal was to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis."
Over the years, its focus expanded and eventually the group got political. Information on pending firearms-related legislation was included in the association's magazine, The American Rifleman; a Legislative Affairs Division was created in 1934.
How does the NRA stack up against other lobbying groups today?
Well, in January 2019, the Madison-based Wisconsin Democracy Campaign dubbed the NRA its "Influence peddler of the month."
"They (the NRA) are one of the biggest lobbyists here in the capital," said Matt Rothschild, the group’s executive director, in a Jan. 3, 2019 interview on WRRD 1510-AM’s "Devil’s Advocates," a liberal talk radio program.
"They spend a ton of money during elections," he said. "We just reported that they spent more than a million dollars here in Wisconsin on the 2018 elections. Most of that was for Walker, or more specifically against Evers."
The Democracy Campaign is a government watchdog group that tracks political contributions.
Rothschild is referring, of course, to the election in which Democrat Tony Evers ousted Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
But what about the many parts of his claim?
Is he right?
Looking at the claim
When asked to back up Rothschild’s claim, Democracy Campaign researcher Michael Buelow pointed to the spending reports from the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, available on the webpage of the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System.
For our purposes, we are dividing the claim into four parts:
The NRA is one of the biggest lobbyists in Madison
According to a report from the Wisconsin Ethics Commission, titled "Total Lobbying Expenditures Sorted by Total Dollars," the NRA spent $126,987 on lobbying for the period of January 2017 to June 2018 (the most recent data available online).
That meant it ranked 109 out of 793 groups. But that is far from "one of the biggest." The top spender on lobbying, for instance, was Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which spent more than $1 million in that period.
So that part of the claim falls short.
That the NRA is among the biggest spenders on Wisconsin elections
Rothschild used the phrase "a ton of money." In our minds, that means it is one of the biggest spenders on the election
According to a November 2018 news release by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign itself, here are the top 10 independent expenditure groups from the fall election:
Americans for Prosperity -- $7.4 million
Right Direction Wisconsin PAC (RGA Wisconsin) -- $6.5 million
ACC Wisconsin PAC -- $4.3 million
Wisconsin Freedom PAC -- $2.8 million
Greater Wisconsin Political Independent Expenditure Fund -- $2.3 million
DAGA WI People's Lawyer Project -- $2.1 million
Wisconsin Conservation Voters Independent Expenditure Committee -- $1 million
American Federation for Children Action Fund IE Committee Inc -- $971,133
NRA Political Victory Fund - Federal PAC -- $955,155
For Our Future -- $910,736
So the $955,155, puts the NRA at No. 9. But its tally is far below the $2.3 million that would put it in the Top 5, or the $7.4 million at the very top.
So this part of the claim is off a bit as well.
More than $1 million in spending in 2018
PolitiFact Wisconsin searched the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information site 2018 entries for "NRA Political Victory Fund -- Federal PAC" and found the following:
-- Spending against Evers: $872,915.46
-- Spending for Walker: $67,669.09
-- Spending for Michael Screnock (state Supreme Court candidate): $44,159.98
-- Spending for Brad Schimel (attorney general): $14,570.81
-- Spending for Andre Jacque (state Senate): $2,432.85
That is more than $1 million on elections in 2018, so that part of the claim hits the target.
Most of the spending was for Walker or against Evers
The final part of the claim also hits the mark -- of the more than $1 million total, $940,584 was either for Walker, or opposing Evers.
Attempts to obtain comment from an NRA spokeswoman were unsuccessful.
Rothschild said, the NRA is "one of the biggest lobbyists here in the capital. They spend a ton of money during elections. … They spent more than a million dollars here in Wisconsin on the 2018 elections. Most of that was for Walker, or more specifically against Evers."
Our review of the numbers found a mixed bag.
Rothschild overshot on how the NRA stacks up against other groups in Wisconsin, but he accurately described its spending in the most recent election.
For a statement that is partially accurate, our rating is Half True.
Email, Matt Rothschild Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Jan. 10, 2019.
Email, Michael Buelow, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Jan. 14, 2019.
National Rifle Association "A Brief History of the NRA."
The American Rifleman magazine
USA TODAY "NRA’s spending pays off with clout and wins in Washington," Feb. 15, 2018.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "Influence Peddler of the Month," Jan. 2, 2019.
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign "NRA Political Victory Fund" Fall 2018"
Devil’s Advocate Radio, Interview with Matt Rothschild of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Jan. 3, 2019, about 06:15 mark.
Associated Press "NRA spent $870K against Gov.-Elect Tony Evers during election,"Jan. 2, 2019.
Wisconsin Ethics Commission "Total Lobbying Expenditures Sorted by Total Dollars."
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