The double standard is clear. Democrats aligned with interest groups are acting on conscience while Republicans have been bought off.
In August 2015, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., took to the Senate floor to decry ongoing Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. The vote was taking place after a summer in which the nation watched grisly undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood abortion doctors discussing the sale of fetal body parts to activists posing as researchers.
Naturally, there was a media outcry over Warren’s speech, given that she had received more than $16,000 from Planned Parenthood during her 2012 campaign. Major newspapers were saturated with stories reminding us that the left was in the pocket of Big Abortion. Who can forget all the hours the news networks dedicated to blaming Democrats for the loss of millions of innocent lives after Planned Parenthood had spent nearly $50 million on elections and lobbying since 2012?
Of course, nobody can forget any of that because none of it ever happened. Instead, Democrats were showered with gushing mainstream news articles praising their fight for “women’s health care” and their personal resolve in standing up to those who want to “take away a woman’s right to control her own body.”
Contrast that with coverage Republicans receive after any mass shooting in America. Suddenly, the National Rifle Association is unmasked as the GOP puppet master, blocking any and all “commonsense” legislation to cut down on gun violence.
Within hours of the shooting tragedy in Parkland, Fla., last week, The Washington Post had updated a page for readers to see how much money the NRA had given their member of Congress. After the Las Vegas shooting last October, The New York Times’ editorial page ran a woefully misleading chart purporting to show which congressional Republicans had received the most help “from the NRA” while mocking the idea of sending “thoughts and prayers.”
The double standard is clear: When Democrats work on behalf of a special interest that aborts millions of children, they are doing so from a place of conscience and ideological purity. When Republicans argue in favor of Second Amendment rights, it is because they have been bought off by a disfavored lobbying group looking to profit from carnage. (Or as comedian Jimmy Kimmel diplomatically put it, the NRA has the GOP’s “balls in a money clip.”)
Evidently, the NRA is the only special interest group that owns a testicular entrapment device. Rare are the stories exposing the money spent electing Democrats by unions, trial lawyers or environmental groups — all of which outspend the NRA year after year. In fact, since 2012, Planned Parenthood alone has donated virtually the same amount ($2.6 million) to individual candidates as the NRA ($2.7 million).
The NRA has, however, spent more in third-party independent ads that either criticize Democrats or support Republicans. But this highlights one of the most pervasive misunderstandings about the NRA’s involvement in politics. Candidates actually “accept” very little money from gun-rights groups. Instead, almost all of the spending the NRA does is in the form of issue advertising independent of the candidates they support.
Though gun-control advocates may try to smear Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., for having taken $3.3 million from the NRA, the reality is that the group has directly donated only about $5,000 to his campaigns.
The rest is in the form of its own spending, which the NRA would have every right to do even if Rubio told them to stop or if he disagreed with its message. And, of course, a direct contribution of a few thousand dollars is an almost infinitesimal amount when compared with a congressman’s total fundraising.
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Even so, the vilification of the NRA makes complete sense for gun-control advocates, as it depersonalizes the issues and makes it seem as if no reasonable individual person could oppose new gun laws. The NRA is powerful only because a lot of regular Americans agree with it; but slamming an evil, faceless monolith is easier than explaining why, unless it’s right after a trauma like a mass shooting, half the country generally opposes most new gun control regulations, including reinstating a ban on “assault weapons.”
In a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week, 57% of respondents said mass shootings in America are more a reflection of problems with identifying and treating people with mental health problems, while only 28% blamed inadequate gun control laws. So statistically, if you support gun control to “solve” the recent spate of shootings, two of your neighbors don’t think new regulations alone would have made any difference. Were they bought off by the NRA, too?
From abortion to guns, special interest groups support candidates who most closely reflect their values. The constant need to tie a party’s actions to these contributions is a cynical ploy that only devalues Congress in the voters’ eyes. And it is especially destructive when applied only to one party.
If money equals votes, the solution for gun-control advocates should be easy — Kimmel and his pals should write a huge check to Republicans to get them to change their mind. Unfortunately for him, he’d find out the hard way that a money clip is a little harder to apply than he thought.
Christian Schneider is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @Schneider_CM