Are Oil Industry Donations Leading NRA to Lessen Support for Hunters?

Monday, May 05, 2014
(graphic: AllGov)

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) commitment to supporting hunters and their concerns may be waning now that energy companies are pumping millions of dollars into the gun-rights organization.


In recent years, multiple oil and gas businesses have made million-dollar contributions to the NRA, which in turn has supported these companies’ lobbying agenda to open more federal public lands to fossil fuel exploration and extraction.


These are the same public lands that hunters—the supposed backbone of the NRA—use and enjoy for their recreational activities. That’s why many hunters are avowed conservationists, because without healthy habitats for wildlife, hunters have nothing to hunt.


And yet the NRA, which likes to call itself the No. 1 hunter’s group in the U.S., is helping oil companies gain more access to federal lands regardless of the environmental impact.


Oil money has poured into NRA coffers from at least six corporations (Clayton Williams Energy, J.L. Davis Gas Consulting, Kamps Propane, Barrett Brothers Oil and Gas, Saulsbury Energy Services, and KS Industries), according to a report from the Center for American Progress (CAP).


These half dozen companies contributed a total of between $1.3 million and $5.6 million to the NRA in 2012 alone, CAP says.


Clayton Williams Energy (CWE) is the NRA’s largest energy contributor, and one of its top funders overall. It gave at least $2 million to the NRA over the last four years, according to Mother Jones.


In return for CWE’s and other oil industry contributions, the NRA threw its support behind a controversial Republican bill, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act. The legislation was intended to expand natural resource extraction (oil, gas, logging and mining) on protected federal lands.


The CAP report says more than 200 wildlife managers and scientists opposed the bill, as did representatives from eight sportsmen’s groups in Colorado.


These concerns, however, did not sway the NRA to change its position on the bill, which never made it out of the House.


But a similar bill, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, came along, and the NRA got behind it as well. The recreational fishing and hunting measure had better success after it was added to another bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act, which was approved by the House. The bill has not moved forward in the Senate, however.


The NRA’s backing of legislation that would hurt wilderness areas represents a change in stance from just a few years ago. In 2007, according to the Gun Truth Project, NRA official Ronald Schmeits told The Washington Post that “the Bush administration has placed more emphasis on oil and gas than access rights for hunters” and said NRA members were having difficulty accessing public land.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Is Oil Money Turning the NRA Against Hunters? (by Hannah Levintova, Mother Jones)

Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International (by Matt Lee-Ashley, Center for American Progress)

Bang for Their Buck (Corporate Accountability International and Gun Truth Project) (pdf)


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