Politician to lure donors with booze, guns and cigarettes

(USA TODAY) With only a few weeks left before the Republican primary, an Arizona House candidate hopes he has landed on a formula to attract new donors.

Andrew Walter is hosting an "Evening of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms" Friday night at a gun club in Scottsdale. Contributors who buy the "expert package" at $1,000 each will get 250 rounds of ammunition and the chance to fire from three weapons. Those donating $250 get a single box of ammo for the opportunity to shoot a Glock 18, a handgun typically used by law enforcement.

Donor response so far has been positive, said campaign manager Chris Tolino. "Arizona is a very strong Second Amendment state," he said. "Firearm ownership and the outdoor lifestyle are very prominent out here."

Walter, a former NFL quarterback, is vying against retired Air Force pilot Wendy Rogers in next month's primary. Rogers had the fundraising lead through March 31. New fundraising reports are due Tuesday.

Politicians have combined weapons and fundraising for years. Since March 2013, at least seven candidates have sought to lure donors with the promise of shooting at things, according to a database maintained by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, which tracks fundraising activity. They range from skeet shooting last year to raise money for Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo's leadership PAC to a trap shoot last month to help underwrite the campaign of a New York State Assembly candidate.

Other politicians have raffled off AK-47s.

Despite the controversy over recent mass shootings, gun-related fundraising "has continued to be a successful means of galvanizing support and raising money," said Palmer Gibbs, who maintains Sunlight's database of fundraising events. "It's becoming one of those dog-whistle political issues. You can say as lot if are you are raffling off a gun or holding a shooting event."

Arizona was the site of a January 2011 shooting rampage that killed six and wounded 13 including then-representative Gabby Giffords. Giffords, who resigned from Congress to focus on her recovery, has become one of the nation's leading gun-control advocates.

Tolino called the Gifford's shooting an "absolute tragedy" but said "the vast majority of gun owners in Arizona are responsible, gun-owning citizens."

Despite the attention-grabbing title, no alcohol will be served at the range, he said. Instead, participants will repair to a nearby restaurant for cocktails and cigars once the shooting is over.


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