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NRA Political Victory Fund: Making Endorsements Count

Thursday, August 26, 2010

America is heading full-tilt into an election cycle that offers tremendous opportunities. In primaries and special elections that have already occurred, we’ve seen voters fired up to protect our constitutional rights. Your NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is working to have the greatest possible impact on this critical election cycle. Between now and November, we’ll be issuing our candidate endorsements in thousands of elections across the country.

We’ve received letters, e-mails and phone calls from NRA members who had questions about some of our endorsements and want to know how we make these important decisions. Here’s a brief explanation of our policies:

First and most important, NRA-PVF is non-partisan in issuing its candidate grades and endorsements. We do not base our grades or endorsement decisions on a candidate’s party affiliation—period. Rather, we look at a candidate’s record on our Right to Keep and Bear Arms; answers to our candidate questionnaires; public statements and involvement in Second Amendment issues.

We do this because NRA is a single-issue organization. There are many other issues a candidate must address with voters; obviously, many folks look at candidates’ positions across the board. But our longtime election slogan—“Vote Freedom First”—reflects our hope that our members and all gun owners will put Second Amendment issues in the forefront when they make their voting decisions.

Next, NRA-PVF has an incumbent-friendly policy that requires our support for pro-gun lawmakers seeking re-election. Again, this is regardless of political party. Whether in Congress or the state legislatures, it is critical that we stand with our friends who have stood with us. Actions speak louder than words, so a concrete voting record trumps untested words of support. We also consider a candidate’s other actions, both public and behind the scenes, such as pushing for votes on critical bills or lobbying colleagues. (Of course, if a pro-gun challenger wins an election and supports our rights, that person will get our support when it’s his or her turn to stand for re-election.)

Unfortunately, this is the hardest policy for some to understand. Especially this year, when many voters are in a mood to “throw ’em all out,” we hear from many members who disagree with our support of certain incumbent lawmakers. But while voters’ tempers are understandably running high, we also need to remember political reality. If we don’t support those who’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with us, there will be no incentive for other lawmakers to stand up to the biased media and the anti-gun lobby.

When an incumbent lawmaker is a-rated and endorsed for re-election by NRA-PVF, that person has been tested over time and has voted to protect our rights. Some may disagree with the candidate on other issues, but an NRA-PVF endorsement reflects support for the Second Amendment.

That doesn’t mean other candidates are left out in the cold. Many of them have held other offices, and we always review the votes they cast. And for all candidates, but especially for those who’ve never held office or built up a voting record, we issue detailed candidate questionnaires. As mentioned earlier, candidates’ voting records and questionnaire answers are evaluated, along with their public statements and involvement in Second Amendment issues.

All of this information is reviewed and we issue a grade ranging from “A” to “F.” But we also don’t make an endorsement in every race. The NRA-PVF endorsement is not given lightly--it must be earned.

Finally, we’re often asked about endorsements in judicial races. NRA-PVF generally does not issue endorsements in judicial elections because they often involve unique issues. Judges, unlike legislators, often do not have voting records, so NRA-PVF can only make evaluations based upon past legal opinions (if any) and public statements on firearm-related issues.

In addition, states have different codes of judicial conduct. Often, they have statutes that restrict judicial candidates from announcing their views on issues that may come before their courts. While we welcome information from our members on judicial candidates, members should also know that an NRA-PVF endorsement in a judicial race is an exception to the rule.

We’ve followed these policies for decades and they’ve proven time and again that they’re the fair and responsible approach to take. Even if you don’t agree 100 percent with NRA-PVF`s endorsement decisions, I hope this explanation is helpful. We know there are no perfect systems, but for an organization to be effective in the political arena it must issue grades and endorsements in a fair, consistent and credible manner. At the end of the day, the most important thing is for you, your friends, your family and your fellow gun owners to Vote Freedom First.

For a list of candidate grades and endorsements for your state, please refer to your November NRA magazines, or visit www.nrapvf.org.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.