Image credit: U.S. Senate Committee on Finance Minority Staff Report

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy…Comrade!

By Kris Brown, President of Brady, and Tiffany Muller, President of End Citizens United

W e represent two different organizations whose missions are impacted by a deep cancer within our democracy — dark money in politics. Dark money is fueled by unknown and even foreign agents. It corrupts elected officials and stops them from enacting measures supported by all Americans. End Citizens United seeks to end the role of dark money in our politics. Brady seeks to end the epidemic of gun violence in America. As leaders of our organizations, we know that these goals are inextricably tied together and to the future of our democracy.

Here’s why.

On Friday, we learned that the Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee, after reviewing documents obtained from the NRA, concluded that the NRA acted as a “foreign asset” to Russia ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Hours later, The New York Times reported that the president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, met with President Trump in the White House, yet again. The conversation was reported to revolve around financial assistance to rebuff impeachment efforts, and a tough re-election, as well as the NRA urging President Trump to refuse to push for or sign lifesaving gun legislation. That’s seedy and inappropriate at best. At worst, it’s a potentially unlawful quid pro quo. It completes, full circle, the current and non-public facing, role of the NRA in leveraging Russian influence in the 2016 election — and seeks to secure its investment in a faltering Presidency they view as essential to killing lifesaving gun bills that could harm their profits and the perverse economic rewards they reap from selling guns anywhere, to anyone, at any cost.

This tale of limitless cash pouring into campaigns and candidates, and its horrific impact on American lives, could be told for any number of issues and causes that deserve action in America today, including health care, climate change, income equality, criminal justice reform, and more.

But few involve the public, flagrant, anti-American, and well-reported abuse that the NRA has repeatedly committed to gain a stranglehold on elected officials. They’ve stopped the democratic process from acting as it should — by and for the will of the people.

Since 1990, this radical and reckless organization has doled out over $183 million on federal campaign contributions and outside political spending, including more than $60 million in dark money. In 2016, the NRA spent $42 million to elect Donald Trump. And in the months leading up to mass shootings in August 2019 that killed 53 people, the NRA spent $1.6 million to lobby Congress against stricter gun background checks.

Time and again, the NRA has stood in the way of action to protect lives, and every one of us pays the price for that. Americans as a nation are suffering from PTSD, and we’re living in communities riddled with gun violence. Our children are cowering in classrooms during active shooter drills, being taught to “run, hide, and fight” when they know those actions are not going to save them from an AR-15 and a high-capacity magazine on the other side of the door.

The solutions to end this carnage claiming 100 lives every single day are right before us, and they are supported by the vast majority of Americans. Ninety percent of Americans support expanding Brady Background Checks, including the large majority of Republicans and gun owners. Yet, a bill that would fix the loopholes in the law has remained pending on Mitch McConnell’s desk for more than 200 days now. In that time, 20,000 Americans have been killed by this undeclared war.

Make no mistake, the NRA, funded by the gun industry and fueled by Russian rubles, deserves nonprofit status like Chernobyl deserves to sell organic. They have used and manipulated our political system, a system once held up as a model by other nations, to funnel torrents of dark money into campaigns and to buy elected representatives.

Worst of all, while our President should have been working to save our lives, he was working to save his own skin.

W e call on all Americans to say enough. Call on your elected officials to renounce the role of dark money in politics and to immediately take action to end gun violence in this country by expanding the Brady law to require background checks before every gun sale, renew the assault weapons ban, and ensure all states implement extreme risk laws. We call on all Americans to actively vote to restore our democracy — support candidates who pledge to work with ECU to unrig the system corrupted by dark money and who are supported by Brady.

Together, we can take our country back and end gun violence in America. There is blood on their hands…so the solution lies in ours.

We’re uniting Americans from coast to coast, red and blue and every color, to end gun violence.