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NRA Leaders' Links To Political Corruption

The following is a list of controversial statements and actions of NRA leaders regarding their ties to Political Corruption. NRA leaders are listed alphabetically by last name.

Joe Allbaugh (Board Member)

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Shaw Group—represented by Allbaugh’s lobbying firm—was awarded $200 million in no-bid federal government contracts to repair damage done by the hurricane. Allbaugh’s hand-selected replacement as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, was leading the agency at the time. When criticized for lobbying and consulting with an agency he used to head, Allbaugh responded, “I don't buy the 'revolving door' argument. This is America. We all have a right to make a living."

In 2003, shortly after Allbaugh became FEMA director, FEMA awarded a large emergency water supply contract to Lipsey Mountain Water. The move was unusual because Lipsey had no production capacity and only 15 employees—they had to purchase their water directly from Nestle Waters North America, the former holder of the contract. The Lipsey family is also is also one of the nation’s largest gun wholesalers. Like Allbaugh International Group, Lipsey’s Inc. is an NRA corporate donor.

In 2001, during Allbaugh’s FEMA director confirmation process, he indicated in a disclosure that he had never been a party to an administrative or civil proceeding. In fact, in 1990, Allbaugh participated in bankruptcy proceedings, listing liabilities of nearly $300,000.

Allbaugh was involved in “Funeralgate,” a controversy in Texas during the late 1990s. Eliza May, director of Texas Funeral Service Commission, was forced out of her job after she launched an investigation into the business practices of Service Corporation International (SCI), the nation’s largest end-of-life services provider. SCI founder Roger Waltrip was a personal friend of the Bush family and made large contributions to Bush’s political campaign and his father’s presidential library. SCI officials met with Allbaugh, then Texas Governor George W. Bush’s chief-of-staff, a number of times prior to May’s dismissal to complain about her investigation. May’s filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against SCI and the State of Texas, eventually settling for over $200,000.

Bob Barr (Board Member)

In August 1999, Barr paid a $28,000 fine to settle charges by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that he accepted nearly $100,000 in illegal contributions during the 1994 and 1996 elections.

Ken Blackwell (Board Member)

On June 25, 2012, Herman Cain, former 2012 Republican presidential candidate, released an advertisement in which he and Ken Blackwell defended a Florida’s Voter ID law. Blackwell asked, “Why is [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder demanding that Florida stop removing illegal voters from their rolls/a>?” Blackwell was making reference to a Department of Justice lawsuit which challenged the Florida law because of allegations that it disenfranchises minorities. Blackwell further boasted, “As Secretary of State of Ohio, I was responsible for the integrity of the vote.” In 2004, while serving as the Secretary of State of Ohio and co-chair of the “Committee to Re-Elect George W. Bush,” Blackwell was the defendant in 16 lawsuits that alleged he disenfranchised Ohio voters.

While serving as Ohio Secretary of State, a state audit revealed that Blackwell illegally paid out over $80,000 in bonuses to staff in December 2006 just before the switch from a Republican to a Democratic administration.

While overseeing the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, Blackwell was accused by the Democratic Party and others of implementing policies that disenfranchised minority and young voters. Numerous lawsuits were filed against Blackwell, who was at the time an Honorary Co-Chair of President George W. Bush’s Ohio campaign. One lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party alleged that Blackwell’s policies violated the Help America Vote Act, passed in the wake of the 2000 presidential election fiasco.

In October 2004, prior to the presidential elections, Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell sent a letter to conservatives to encourage them to vote on a gay marriage ballot issue. Democrats contended that it was inappropriate for the person in charge of overseeing the election to rally voters to vote a specific cause. Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Slagle compared Blackwell’s conduct to “allowing the manager of the New York Yankees to also serve as the chief umpire in the World Series.”

Blackwell owned shares of Diebold, a voting machine manufacturer, while he was responsible for overseeing the 2004 presidential election in Ohio as Secretary of State. While Secretary of State, Blackwell also directed Ohio to purchase Diebold voting machines. Walden O’Dell, chief executive of Diebold and a fundraiser for George W. Bush, famously sent a letter to Ohio Republicans stating that he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president [George W. Bush in 2004].”

Matt Blunt (Board Member)

In September 2007, controversy arose when the Blunt administration refused to release emails between Blunt’s chief of staff and anti-abortion groups. The emails, obtained from an outside source, indicated that the Blunt administration was encouraging anti-abortion groups to make political attacks against Blunt’s political opponents. Scott Eckersley, an attorney in the Blunt administration, was fired and claimed it was because he pointed out that the failure to release the emails could violate Missouri’s Sunshine law. Missouri later settled Eckersley’s wrongful termination and defamation lawsuit for $500,000. The Blunt administration falsely told media that Eckersley visited a “group sex Internet site” while on the job.

John Bolton (Chairman of International Affairs Subcommittee)

During 2005 confirmation hearings regarding Bolton’s nomination for United States Ambassador to the United Nations by President George W. Bush, Members of Congress alleged that Bolton had distorted intelligence for political purposes a number of times while serving as Undersecretary of State from 2001-2005. In once instance, Bolton was accused of exaggerating Cuba’s weapons capability while trying to terminate the position of an intelligence officer who corrected Bolton’s misstatements. Government officials told TIME that Bolton frequently pressured the CIA to produce reports confirming his own views. One CIA official stated, “Whenever his staff sent testimony, speeches over for clearance, often it was full of stuff which was not based on anything we could find.” This type of behavior led then-Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) to call Bolton “the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.” Fifty-nine former American diplomats (who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations) sent a letter to U.S. Senators opposing Bolton’s nomination. Senate Democrats filibustered the nomination and Bolton ended up receiving a recess appointment to the position by President Bush.

Lynne Finney, a former legal adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), alleged that in 1982 or 1983, fellow USAID employee Bolton screamed that she was fired after she refused to lobby to loosen restrictions on the sale of baby formula in Third World countries. Finney refused, citing studies that demonstrated that formula was killing babies in Africa because it was often mixed with unclean water. Bolton reportedly told Finney “that Nestlé [a maker of formula] was an important company and that [Bolton] was giving [Finney] a direct order from President [Ronald] Reagan.” Finney discovered that Bolton did not have the authority to fire her, but blamed him for her reassignment to a basement office.

Harlon Carter (Former NRA Executive Vice President)

In 1973, federal agents investigated Carter concerning his former employment with the Immigration and Naturalization Service after 40,000 to 50,000 rounds of government ammunition were reported missing. He was called before a grand jury to testify about the matter, but charges were never filed.

Larry Craig (Board Member)

On August 3, 2012, the Associated Press reported that Craig, who is being sued by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for allegedly misusing more than $200,000 in campaign funds for his legal defense following his 2007 arrest in a bathroom sex sting, seeks to fend off the charges by arguing that the incident was part of his official Senate business. Craig asserts that he was travelling between Idaho and the nation's capital for work and cites a Senate rule which include all charges for meals, lodging, hotel fans, cleaning, pressing of clothing—and bathrooms—as reimbursable per diem expenses. "Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator's use of a bathroom while on official travel," wrote Craig’s lawyer in documents filed on August 2, 2012.

On June 11, 2012, Craig was sued by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) for allegedly misusing more than $200,000 in campaign funds for his legal defense following his 2007 arrest in a bathroom sex sting. Craig had been accused of soliciting sex in a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The FEC claims that Craig for U.S. Senate, the U.S. senator’s campaign account, paid at least $139,952 to the law firm Sutherland, Asbill and Brennan in Washington, D.C., and $77,032 to Kelly & Jacobson in Minnesota for legal services related to his guilty plea. The FEC stated in their complaint that Craig should be required to repay the misused funds and a fine of up to $6,500.

Cam Edwards (NRA News Radio Host)

On the May 22, 2023 broadcast of “Cam & Company,” Edwards spoke with National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) adjunct fellow Horace Cooper. NCPRR was founded one day after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which was responsible for model voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” legislation. NCPPR promotes the implementation of voter ID laws at the state level in order to “enhance integrity in voting.” On the show, Cooper claimed that voter fraud is “a real problem” and that “felons, illegal immigrants, or just people who are paid to show up...go from one voting site to the next and cast votes in the names of other people.” Edwards agreed with Cooper and displayed a graphic which claimed that newly enacted voter ID legislation in Virginia “will ensure that voters presenting themselves at the polls are who they say they are, and greatly reduce voter fraud.” Cooper expressed NCPPR’s preference for voter ID laws similar to those in Texas and South Carolina, stating that these laws contain “grade A voter ID requirements.” Those laws have been challenged in court by the Department of Justice over allegations that they disenfranchise minorities. Furthermore, research has shown that in-person voter fraud of the kind Cooper warns about is extremely rare in the United States. Finally, in 2010, Cooper, a former Department of Labor official, pled guilty to falsifying a document after he failed to report gifts worth thousands of dollars which he received from convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Manny Fernandez (Board Member)

Jim Gilmore (Board Member)

In separate documents filed for his 2008 presidential and Virginia Senate campaigns, Gilmore failed to disclose that he sat on the board of Windmill International. At the time, Windmill International was facing allegations that the company’s president attempted to secure fraudulent government contracts in Iraq. The President of Windmill International, Douglas Combs, made tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to Gilmore during his political career.

Marion Hammer (Board Member)

A Bloomberg News article from May 11, 2023 provided several interesting anecdotes about Hammer, including:

A 2010 IRS Form 990 filed by Hammer’s United Sportsmen of Florida (USF) organization revealed that the organization loaned Hammer over $50,000 to assist her in purchasing a home (to be repaid at 2% interest). This loan is in addition to the $110,000 in compensation Hammer, the only paid employee of USF, received that year.

Roy Innis (Board Member)

On October 31, 2011, the Washington Post reported that Prosperity USA, a private charity run by two top aides to 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, gave $100,000 to Innis’ Congress of Racial Equality Organization (CORE) shortly before Cain spoke at CORE’s annual “Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Celebration” dinner. Speaking about Cain at the event, Innis said, “In this case we are even more pleased to bring the Tea Party people to our dinner as they have exemplified the spirit of Dr. King and are living the legacy that he helped establish in American politics.” Prosperity USA is facing scrutiny for a $37,372 donation to the Cain campaign that may have violated campaign finance laws (under federal law, non-profit charities are not allowed to donate to political campaigns).

In 1986, Innis was forced to pay $56,000 in back taxes as well as $28,000 in civil fraud penalties after the IRS discovered that he had used unreported income from CORE for personal expenses including travel, rent, jewelry and entertainment.

In 1981, CORE paid $35,000 to settle allegations of illegal fundraising techniques.

David Keene (Board Member)

In September 2011, Diana Hubbard Carr—David Keene’s ex-wife—was convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to a year in prison for her role in embezzling over $300,000 from the American Conservative Union (ACU). Keene chaired ACU during the period that the embezzlement occurred, before resigning in May 2011.

In May 2005, Keene spoke at an ACU dinner celebrating and defending then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was embroiled in a number of ethics scandals (DeLay has since been convicted of money laundering). NRA Board Member Cleta Mitchell served as M.C. for the event. Attendees at the event included DeLay himself, then-House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R – MO), then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, NRA Board Members Grover Norquist and Governor Jim Gilmore (R – VA), and approximately 30 members of Congress. The NRA purchased a table at the dinner for $2,000. In an interview with NPR a day after the event, Keene announced that “conservatives will protect their own” and called ethics investigations against DeLay “an attack on the conservative agenda” and “each and every” one of the 800 attendees of the dinner.

Cleta Mitchell (Board Member)

In 2006, Mitchell appeared on MSNBC to defend a number of Republicans embroiled in ethical scandals. Of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Mitchell said, “Those allegations, the indictment against Tom DeLay, were completely politically motivated.” She then bet public relations strategist Cliff Schecter dinner that DeLay would not go to jail. In January 2011, DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for money laundering.

In May 2005, Mitchell served as the Master of Ceremonies at an ACU event honoring U.S. Representative Tom Delay (R-TX), who was embroiled in ethics investigations (and has since been convicted of money laundering). After telling those in attendance that she and other conservatives “love” DeLay, Mitchell claimed he was under investigation only because he is “effective.” She also declared, “The tribute is a statement to him: You're not alone. We'll stand by you. And it's to say to people in this town: If you pick a fight with him, you've got us to contend with.

Grover Norquist (Board Member)

When disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy in 2006, it was revealed in an investigative report released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that Norquist used his tax-exempt Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) organization to help Abramoff funnel money from his clients to conservative causes (ATR kept a small cut of the funds). The Senate Finance Committee reported that, in doing so, ATR “appear[ed] to have perpetrated a fraud on other taxpayers” by “profit-seeking and private benefit behavior inconsistent with their tax-exempt status. And by virtue of the tax benefits, other taxpayers implicitly subsidized this behavior.” Additionally, clients of Abramoff were also directed to give Norquist’s organization money. In an e-mail to colleagues, Abramoff wrote, “I spoke this evening with Grover. He said that, if [the Choctaw Indian tribe] want the taxpayer movement, including him, involved on this issue and anything else which will come up over the course of the year or so, they need to become a major player with ATR. He recommended that they make a $50,000 contribution to ATR.” According to Mark Salter, a top aide to Senator John McCain (R-AZ), “By his own admission, Grover couldn’t be any closer to Abramoff if they moved to Massachusetts and got married.”

In 2006, the Associated Press reported that Norquist—who visited the White House 97 times between 2001 and 2006—helped arrange meetings for clients of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff with officials in the administration of George W. Bush. At the same time, Norquist was soliciting donations from these clients for his group Americans for Tax Reform. When the Bush administration tried to seal records of visitors to the White House, Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney said, “By trying to extend a special privilege typically reserved for U.S. government employees to protect their Abramoff cronies like Grover Norquist…the Bush administration showed just how willing they are to manipulate the law to hide the truth and protect their political interests.”

In 1997, Norquist founded Janus-Merritt Strategies, a lobbying firm, along with David Safavian. Safavian was later convicted on felony obstruction of justice charges in relation to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. The Janus-Merritt clientele included:

In 1995, in the wake of the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives, Norquist, then- House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (who has since been convicted of money laundering), and Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff founded The K Street Project. The goal of the project was to facilitate the hiring of Republicans at top lobbying firms and then reward the firms by offering access to influential GOP officials. The explicit “pay-to-play” nature of the project is now illegal, however, in 2003 Republican lobbyists held 33 of the 36 top-level lobbying positions in Washington. During the midst of the project, Norquist told journalist Elizabeth Drew, “There should be as many Democrats working on K Street representing corporate America as there are Republicans working in organized labor—and that number is close to zero.” Norquist credited Abramoff—who was later convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy charges in a far-reaching political scandal—with “instigating the whole [K Street] project.”

Oliver North (Board Member)

In March 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) accused North of misrepresenting how donations to his Freedom Alliance charity were being used. CREW disputed North’s claim that, “There’s no overhead. There’s no expenses taken out. Every penny that’s donated or that’s raised through things like the Freedom Concerts goes to the scholarship fund.”

North was a central figure in the Iran-Contra Affair. The political scandal, which came to light in November 1986, involved U.S. officials violating an arms embargo to sell weapons to Iran, and then using the residual profits to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua. North oversaw the transfer of the arms profits to the Contras, who engaged in widespread human rights abuses, including the rape and murder of civilians. They also had links to drug traffickers. In July 1987, North admitted to lying to Congress and shredding important documents related to the Iran-Contra scheme, which he referred to as a “neat idea.” He was later indicted on 16 felony counts before being convicted on three of them in 1989. The conviction was vacated in 1990.

On September 17, 1987, North sought leniency for Honduran General José Bueso Rosa. Rosa tried to ship $40 million worth of cocaine to the United States in order to fund an attempt to assassinate Honduran President Roberto Suazo Córdoba but was caught by the FBI. North was afraid that if he did not help Rosa avoid a long jail sentence, the general would expose the extent of the United State’s support of the Contra rebels.

On May, 5 1985, North wrote to Admiral John Poindexter, “You will recall that over the years Manuel Noriega in Panama and I have developed a fairly good relationship.” At the time North was attempting to strike a deal where the United States would help improve the dictator’s image in exchange for Noriega’s help in defeating the Sandinistas. North’s exchange with Poindexter also revealed that North had met Noriega on a boat on the Potomac River.

Wayne Anthony Ross (Board Member)

In April 2008, Ross emailed then-Governor Sarah Palin to ask for “a personal favor.” Ross wanted the governor to get Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to issue a permit to a construction company owned by his friend, Rex Close. DNR had initially denied the permit because of environmental concerns (Close wanted to place an asphalt plant in the flood plain of a river). Palin had Randall Ruaro, her special assistant, look into the matter. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Transportation (DOT) helped Close appeal the permit denial. DOT officials told Palin’s staff that they were “very confident” the appeal would be successful. Palin told a staffer that she “really couldn't follow all that Ross was requesting help on” but had her staff work to assist him nonetheless.

Rep. Don Young (Board Member)

Fraser Verrusio, hired by Young to work on the House Transportation Committee that he chaired, was convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity and other crimes in February 2011. While working as a policy director, Verrusio received gifts— including an all-expenses paid trip to the 2003 World Series—from a client of Jack Abramoff’s lobbying firm that had business before the committee.

In April 2007, Mark Zachares, a former top aide to Young, pled guilty to bribery charges in connection to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Zachares accepted thousands of dollars in illegal gratuities from Abramoff in exchange for using his employment on two subcommittees chaired by Young to advance Abramoff’s interests.

Young was the subject of a 2007 Justice Department criminal inquiry on the basis of his association with employees of the VECO Corporation that were convicted of bribery. VECO CEO Bill Allen, who hosted a yearly fundraiser for Young called “The Pig Roast,” pled guilty to charges that he bribed three Alaska state legislators. Between 1996 and 2006, VECO fundraisers raised over $150,000 for Young. According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), VECO benefited from earmarks and legislation proposed by Young during this period.

In 2005, Young secured a $223 million earmark for a construction project that became known as “The Bridge to Nowhere.” The bridge was designed to connect Ketchikan, Alaska (pop. 8,000) with Gravina Island (pop. 50) and would have been nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. At this time, a ferry ran every 30 minutes between Gravina Island and the mainland. Young also secured a $231 million earmark in the same bill for a bridge that would have connected Anchorage to Knik, Alaska (pop. 22). This bridge was to be named “Don Young’s Way.” Young openly bragged that the appropriations bill in question was stuffed “like a turkey.” When Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and others suggested that funds from the bridge projects be diverted to provide relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Young responded, “They can kiss my ear! That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” In response to national outrage over the earmarks, plans to construct both bridges were canceled, but Alaska was allowed to retain the earmarked funds in the state’s general federal highway allotment fund. In 2007, Young warned then-Governor Sarah Palin, “Don’t even think of giving that money back” in response to a Congressional proposal to send some of Alaska’s funds to Minnesota in the wake of a bridge collapse in that state. An August 2007 Palin email indicated that Young continued to work behind the scenes to construct Don Young’s Way. Young was sharply criticized by commentators on both the left and right wing of politics.

In 2005, Young secured a $10 million earmark for the improvement of Coconut Road, a street that runs near Fort Myers, Florida. The Republican House Member responsible for the area where Coconut Road is located did not request the funds. Local planning officials rejected the federal money three separate times because they did not want to undertake the project. The connection of the street to Interstate 75 would have been a windfall to developer Daniel Aronoff, who owned a large amount of land near the expansion project. Aronoff, whose lobbyist was to be put directly through to staff whenever he called Young’s office, helped raise $40,000 for Young at a February 2005 fundraiser. Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah (a Republican) stated, “It would appear that Don Young was doing a favor for a major contributor.” Beyond accusations of “pay-to-play” on the part of Young and Aronoff, the Coconut Road project was controversial for a number of other reasons. Environmentalists alleged that the project would threaten protected areas. In 2008, the Senate voted 63-29 to ask the Department of Justice to investigate Young because the earmark was inserted after the bill was finalized by Congress. When a reporter approached Young to discuss the Coconut Road allegations, he responded with an obscene gesture.

During the first half of 2005, while a massive transportation bill was being authored in the Young-chaired House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the Congressman went on a nationwide fundraising tour. Individuals, largely representing non-Alaskan transportation interests, raised $316,000 for Young, compared to $37,862 contributed by Alaskans during the same time period.

In September 2002, Young’s PAC received $12,000 from Native American tribes who were clients of (later-convicted) lobbyist Jack Abramoff after he wrote a letter to the General Services Administration (GSA) asking that they receive preferential treatment in the development of the Old Post Pavilion in Washington, D.C.

Young repeatedly used his position as chair of the House Resources Committee from 1995 to 2001 to oppose applying United States labor and immigration laws to the Northern Mariana Islands, a United States Commonwealth. A 1998 Department of Interior report documented widespread human rights abuses associated with a booming sweatshop industry on the islands (clothing made on the islands carries a “Made in USA” label). The report found that women and children immigrant workers were subjected to forced
abortions, sex slavery, and substandard pay and working conditions
. Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) expressed outrage after personally meeting individuals forced to work without pay and engage in acts of prostitution and became a strong proponent of reform. In 1995 and again in 2000, Young allowed bills (which were unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate) that would have improved conditions for these workers to die in the House Resources Committee. Later-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff took credit for the failure of the 2000 reform bill, saying “We then stopped it cold in the House.” Between 1994 and 2001, Abramoff was paid $11 million by the Northern Mariana Islands government to lobby in opposition of these reforms. During one 25-month period, Abramoff employees had over 120 contacts with Young or his staff concerning the Northern Mariana Islands. When term limits forced Young to step down as chair of the House Resources Committee, Abramoff wrote the Northern Mariana Island’s anti-reform governor to say, “The loss of Chairman Young's authority cannot easily be measured—or replaced ... We have lost major institutional memory and friendship.” Mark Zachares, who later worked as an aide for Young before pleading guilty to conspiracy as part of the Abramoff lobbying scandal, served as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Labor and Immigration from 1998 to 2002—during the time that Young blocked immigration and labor reform.

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