Eric Holder and NRA's Big Money
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on whether U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should be held in contempt of Congress, an extraordinary move with no shortage of political theatre behind it.
The powerful and moneyed National Rifle Association (NRA) has waded into the debate, urging House members to support the measure. So far this cycle, their political action committee (PAC) has given $295,850 to House members, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Just 18 percent of that, or $54,450, has gone to Democratic members.
That Republicans would support a Republican-led effort to embarrass the administration isn’t a surprise, it’s where Democrats come down that’s the question. Home state politics will obviously play a role, but it’s also worth asking if NRA money—both the desire for it and fear of it—will be part of the decision.
Of the 32 Democrats who have received NRA PAC money this cycle or in 2010, 29 have an A or A+ rating, two have a B, and the other was endorsed by the group in her 2011 special election. Five of these—Peterson, Matheson, Barrow, Rahall, and McIntyre—have already said they will vote in favor of contempt.
These candidate donations are just part of the story, of course. In 2010, the NRA spent $8.3 million on reported outside spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2012, they will likely spend even more and it has been reported that they’ll be part of the Koch Brothers’ political operation. Because the sources of their in-house electioneering funding can be kept secret, it is probable voters will not know the true source of the attack ad dollars. Gun money? Perhaps. Deep-pocket tycoons with a special interest to protect? Pretty likely.
In a highly politicized vote like this, money doesn’t tell the whole story, but the financial incentive for these members is an important factor.
*It’s important to note that the members starred support the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that would serve to the break the ties between campaign cash and votes by allowing members of Congress to run for office by relying on small donations from people back home combined with public matching funds. They know the system is broken—and want to change it.