You think we’ll hear anything from Scott Walker that isn’t cleared first by the National Rifle Association? Me either.
|The Koch brothers and the NRA no-compromise gun lobby in DC, own Scott Walker.|
NRA put big money on Walker campaign
By Dan Bice
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Dec. 22, 2012 Gov. Scott Walker has been quick with symbolic measures after the massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut earlier this month.
Walker has called for a moment of silence, a day of mourning and a possible mental health summit. But don’t expect to hear anything from the first-term Republican governor that rankles the National Rifle Association.
Not after the gun-rights group bet on the Wauwatosa Republican in an especially big way this year. The NRA’s political and corporate arms dropped $815,660 in independent expenditures in Wisconsin to help Walker defeat Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in an unprecedented recall election in June, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
“Eight-hundred thousand dollars – that’s no small amount of money,” said Mandela Barnes, an incoming Democratic lawmaker from Milwaukee. “Of course, he’s not going to jump and be one of the first to endorse gun control regulations.” Some of those NRA funds went for a TV spot that told voters: “Barrett has a rating of F from the NRA. Don’t let Tom Barrett recall your gun rights.”
By contrast, the governor was awarded an A-plus grade from the group. He was also a key speaker at the NRA’s national convention and the winner of its Defender of Freedom award. On top of all that, the NRA Political Victory Fund gave $10,000 directly to Walker’s campaign, the single largest contribution made by the political action committee in 2012, says the National Institute on State Money in Politics.
“It was a no-brainer that the gun owners’ support was wholly behind Walker,” said Nik Clark, president and founder of Wisconsin Carry Inc., a gun rights organization. Asked what impact the money from the nation’s most powerful gun lobby had on Walker’s views on weapons regulations, his spokesman offered a terse reply.
“None,” said Cullen Werwie, Walker’s press secretary. Over the past week, Walker has been very guarded in his remarks about gun-control proposals put forward by Barnes and other Democrats. Among other things, they have said they will propose legislation that would make it illegal in Wisconsin to possess or sell assault rifles and high-capacity magazines such as those used in the Connecticut school shooting.
“I’m not saying yes or no,” Walker said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m just saying a couple days after on anything, even a specific mental-health issue, is a little bit early because we don’t know all the details.” In an interview with Journal Sentinel reporters last week, Walker steered away from both gun control and arming school personnel as solutions – without ruling either out. The NRA spoke out Friday in favor of a massive deployment of armed guards to the nation’s schools in the wake of the Connecticut incident.
On Dec. 14, a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 first-graders and six adults. The incident followed two Wisconsin mass shootings – one in August at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and the other in October at the Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield. Walker’s ties to the NRA go back to when he was first elected nearly 20 years ago. He was one of the outspoken Assembly members for the right to bear arms and a key proponent of legislation that barred cities from drafting gun regulations that were stricter than state law.
Since becoming governor, he has signed measures to allow state residents to carry concealed weapons and to provide legal protection for homeowners who shoot and kill intruders on their property, something known as the “castle doctrine.” NRA lobbyists strongly backed both bills. Clark said his gun group will propose expanding the castle doctrine next year to those who have obtained a restraining order against someone else. In response to the recent Connecticut shooting, Walker has offered a couple of new ideas.
He has called for a summit of mental health professionals to consider ways to prevent future mass shootings. He has also proposed requiring GPS monitoring for anyone with restraining orders for domestic violence – an idea opposed by Clark’s gun group. Barnes, the incoming state Democratic lawmaker, said it’s difficult for a politician who has been beneficiary of such NRA largess to propose anything affecting ownership of guns or ammunition.
“It sounds good – he wants to be concerned about mental health now,” Barnes said. “But let’s talk about these guns.” Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said the NRA is a “looming figure” in capitols around the United States.
Every time there is a mass shooting, McCabe said, politicians promise meaningful reforms to prevent a replay of the tragedy. But in the end, he said, nothing much happens. “We’ve seen this repeated over and over again,” McCabe said. “It’s a testament to the gun lobby’s enormous strength and its grip on Congress, state legislatures and governors across the country.”
The recall race isn’t the only Wisconsin election in which the NRA was a major player. According to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the gun group coughed up $571,000 in independent expenditures to try to help Republican candidate Tommy Thompson in his failed bid to defeat Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin for an open U.S. Senate seat. Plus, the NRA gave Thompson a contribution of $7,000, one of its larger direct donations.
That means in just two races in Wisconsin this year – the gubernatorial recall and U.S. Senate elections – the NRA spent more than $1.4 million. But the group has an influence far beyond its campaign spending.
McCabe noted that the NRA uses its endorsement to let its members and other single-issue voters know whom to support financially and at the ballot box. That influence, he said, is much harder to track. “It’s a very potent force,” McCabe said.
Not surprisingly, Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, issued a statement after the Connecticut shooting in which she embraced President Barack Obama’s call to make gun control a central issue in the coming months. Baldwin said she favored “closing the gun show loophole, background checks, assault weapons, as well as, large capacity ammunition magazines, strips and drums.” She has an F rating from the NRA.
More surprising were the comments from Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who earned an A from the gun lobby earlier this year. In a statement, Sensenbrenner said he was open to modifying federal firearms restrictions. “As the President said, no set of laws will prevent every future horrific act of violence or eliminate evil from our society, but we can do better,” the Menomonee Falls Republican said. “As someone who sponsored the Brady bill, I support reasonable measures in order to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and the mentally ill.”