The Key to the NRA’s Influence? Votes, Not Money

The NRA has spent $4.1 million on lobbying this year, a fraction of mega-spenders like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. So what accounts for its power in Washington? Analysts say it chooses its political battles wisely, swinging primary elections in favor of pro-gun candidates.

The Guardian examines the National Rifle Association’s outsized influence and concludes that its power is not derived only from money. The vast majority of Americans support gun control, and yet Congress has failed to toughen laws even in the wake of a series of mass shootings. With the NRA pouring money into political races at record levels, it is easy to argue that the gun lobby has bought Washington. But that fails to paint a full picture. So far this year, the NRA has spent $4.1 million on lobbying – more than the $3.1 million it spent in all of 2016. By comparison, the dairy industry has spent $4.4 million in the same period. The National Association of Realtors has paid out $32.2 million for lobbying and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest spender of all, has spent $104 million.

Guns and ammo are big businesses, with revenues of $13.3 billion in 2017. But that’s paltry in comparison with, say, the auto industry, which has spent $51.8 million on lobbying this year, with projected revenues of $105 billion and profits of $3 billion.“The NRA is not successful because of its money,” says UCLA professor and Adam Winkler. “To be sure, it is hard to be a force in American politics without money. The NRA has money that it uses to help its favored candidates get elected. But the real source of its power, I believe, comes from voters.”