Perriello defends NRA in campaign finance fight
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.) is wading into the controversial fight over Democrats' pending campaign finance reform measure, defending the National Rifle Association for its role in the debate from critics on both sides of the ideological divide.
The DISCLOSE Act -- sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and due for a House vote as early as Friday -- would require most unions, corporations and nonprofit groups to disclose more information about their donors and their political activities. The original version of the bill set off alarm bills at the NRA, which strongly opposed having to reveal so much information about its donors. Recognizing the political clout of the pro-gun lobby, Democratic leaders cut a deal with the NRA by carving out an exemption from the disclosure rules for groups fitting a narrow set of criteria.
Then the trouble started. Many liberal lawmakers and groups were outraged, complaining that Democrats were hurting the bill and cowering to the gun lobby by creating an exemption. And the NRA also took some flack from conservatives, who were upset that the deal might smooth passage for a bill they hate. "Cutting a special deal at the expense of the First Amendment with lawmakers who have decided for now to stop gutting the Second Amendment reveals an NRA that is unprincipled and will be weaker for it in the long run," complained the Wall Street Journal editorial board.
But the deal and the NRA do have their defenders -- mostly among the ranks of conservative-leaning Democrats like Perriello, who issued this statement Thursday:
The DISCLOSE Act is about taking control of our politics away from corporate front groups and handing it back to the people. The NRA, with its four million dues-paying members, is the epitome of people-powered politics and they deserve to have their voices heard in elections. Maybe liberal groups and the Wall Street Journal don't understand that for over 125 years, the NRA has represented millions of everyday Americans who are passionate about the freedoms afforded us under the Second Amendment and want to hold our elected officials accountable to those standards. Liberals may not like the NRA's beliefs but they should admire their people-powered organizing. Our democracy should respect the difference between a group with four million members and a corporate front group writing a $4 million check. This bill is not about favoring groups with a particular belief but about handing our democracy back to the people.
As a freshman lawmaker facing a difficult reelection race, Perriello knows that supporting campaign finance reform generally is likely to be good politics. But he also knows that defying the NRA is bad politics, particularly in a rural district like his where so many constituents are gun owners and staunch supporters of gun rights. Perriello touted his strong rating from the NRA in his 2008 campaign, and he has positioned himself as a supporter of gun rights during his time in office.
Several potent groups, particularly the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, remain opposed to the DISCLOSE measure and will likely seek to punish lawmakers who vote for it.
June 17, 2010; 12:32 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Tom Perriello
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