The Board of Elections has settled with the NRA for the sum of $63,000. In September, I filed a campaign finance complaint against the NRA on behalf of the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats, alleging that the NRA’s Rhode Island PAC was illegally funded by the national NRA PAC. In the consent order laying out the terms of the settlement, the Board of Elections has confirmed that the NRA did indeed illegally fund its Rhode Island PAC from the federal PAC, revealing that that actually shared the same bank account.
“Heading into what may turn out to be the most expensive year in modern Rhode Island elections, Common Cause is please to see that the Board of Elections is vigorously enforcing the state’s campaign finance laws,” said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “The NRA, with its vast resources, should have had no problem properly segregating their funds. This consent decree, with its significant financial penalty and additional stipulations, sends a clear signal that if you’re going to participate in our political process you need to obey the rules. When it comes to the 2nd Amendment the NRA preaches the need to enforce existing laws. We’re glad to see that the Board of Elections decided to take their advice when it came to campaign finance laws.”
Since 2002, the NRA RI PAC has contributed $163,495 to Rhode Island candidates, mostly conservative Democrats like House Speaker Gordon Fox, Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Ruggerio, and House Majority Leader Nick Mattiello. Mike McCaffrey, the conservative Democrat from Warwick who chairs the Senate Judiciary committee, which has jurisdiction over most gun legislation, has also received thousands of dollars from the controversial gun lobby. So did former Speaker Bill Murphy, the Democrat who is currently the chief lobbyist for the gun interests in Rhode Island.
Shortly after I filed the campaign finance complaint, the NRA closed down its Rhode Island PAC. In the settlement, the NRA agrees to follow campaign finance law should it reopen its PAC.