Secret NRA weapons: Negative ads, motivated voters

The organization's most effective tool is priceless: millions of members who vote regularly.

TAMPA, Fla. -- For all the talk of the money the National Rifle Association spends supporting politicians who pushback against gun control, the powerful group spends twice as much attacking gun control proponents.

In the 2016 election cycle, the NRA and its affiliated organizations spent more than $34 million attacking mostly-Democratic candidates running for federal offices, according to federal records compiled by

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With another $16 million in supportive spending for federal candidates and a reported $50 million more on state and local races, the NRA’s $100 million in 2016 spending lands it among the most active political groups in the country.

But the organization’s most effective tool is priceless: millions of members who vote regularly.

“NRA voters vote at a greater percentage than most common voters out there,” said former Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-FL), who endured millions of dollars in NRA attacks during his unsuccessful bid in 2016 to unseat Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“The NRA sends out a scorecard to thousands of people in every district; millions of people across the country. And with that rating, people make a determination.”

Murphy was one of six Democrats running for Senate in 2016 who was targeted with at least a million dollars in negative ad-buys, according to campaign finance website OpenSecrets. Five of those six Democrats lost.

Florida Congressman David Jolly, a Republican, also lost in 2016; the NRA pulled its support of his campaign after the Pulse attacks in Orlando, when he introduced a gun bill (unsuccessfully) that would have restricted gun access to individuals who are on the no-fly and terrorism watch lists.

“If you cross the NRA, they’re certainly going to abandon you,” said Jolly, who received thousands of dollars from the organization for his previous campaigns in 2014. “A lot of Congressmembers take votes based on (NRA) money, as well as their constituency.”

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