Donations to NRA's Political Action Committee Surge in March

(Bloomberg) -- The National Rifle Association’s political arm had a record spike in donations in March, even as students took part in demonstrations in Washington and around the country calling for stronger gun control.

The NRA Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million, up from $779,063 in February, according to its latest filing with the Federal Election Commission.

That was more than it had raised in any month since at least 2000, a review of FEC records showed. In 2016, when the NRA spent $31 million either attacking Hillary Clinton or supporting the campaign of Donald Trump, its political action committee collected a little less than $1.5 million in its best fundraising month. The Political Victory Fund ended March with $5.8 million in the bank.

The Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, has led to calls for more firearms safety measures, which the NRA opposes. Students have organized protests, including school walkouts and March for Our Lives events across the country.

The Florida Legislature enacted new controls on gun ownership in the wake of the shooting, including a three-day waiting period for the purchase of all firearms, limiting sales to those 21 or older, and banning bump stocks. Even Trump said he would be willing to take on the gun lobby if necessary in the wake of the shooting.

Protests Presented as Threat

The NRA’s membership drives and fundraising pitches have highlighted the protests. "The threat to our freedom has never been more real," reads one social media post that includes a link to its membership page. Another post says that gun control proponents "are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment."

Small-dollar donors -- those giving $200 or less -- fueled the surge of donations to the PAC, accounting for some $1.9 million of the total. It reported spending only $105,130, including 21 contributions to political campaigns. Representative Pete Sessions of Texas got the largest donation of $4,950, but other recipients included Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

The NRA also uses its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, to spend on elections -- and it spent $33 million in 2016. Under federal law, that group does not have to report information on its finances or its donors to the FEC.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.