Audience members react to Senator Joni Ernst’s remarks during a town hall at the Iowa Memorial Union. Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann
Two Iowa Republicans — Sen. Joni Ernst and Rep. David Young — are among the biggest beneficiaries in Congress of the National Rifle Association’s political spending, according to The New York Times. Both have been staunch opponents of gun control proposals, and both have earned “A” ratings as legislators from the NRA. Both invoked prayer rather legislative action in their public responses to Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas, which has resulted in 58 deaths and left 489 injured.
The Times used data on campaign contributions and spending compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) to create lists of the top ten recipients of NRA dollars in each chamber of Congress. The Times looked at NRA spending starting with each Congress person’s first run for federal office. Ernst comes in at number seven on the list of senators, having received $3,124,273 in support from the NRA. Young, who represents Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, is third on the House list, with $707,662 in NRA dollars.
Interestingly, Ernst and Young are relatively new to Congress, both taking office in January 2015.
The Times counted not only direct campaign contributions to congressional candidates, but also independent expenditures to support a candidate, as well as money spent attacking rival candidates. According to the CRP data, Ernst has received $9,900 in direct campaign contributions from the NRA. She also received support in the form of $322,064 in independent expenditures, and the NRA has spent $2,792,789 attacking candidates running against Ernst. Young has also received $9,900 in direct campaign contributions. The NRA has spent $374,221 on independent expenditures to support him, and $800 attacking other candidates.
In 2014, then-State Sen. Ernst admitted she sometimes carried a gun while in the Iowa state capitol building. Although she had a valid concealed carry permit for a handgun, Iowa state law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone other than authorized law enforcement personnel to bring a gun into the capitol. No action was ever taken against Ernst for violating that law.