'NRA in crisis' ad campaign launched ahead of gun group's annual convention

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

On the eve of the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Indianapolis, the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety has unveiled a new ad campaign that argues the organization is “becoming more fringe and more toxic to the Americans it has long claimed to represent.”

The $100,000 campaign will include online ads, digital billboards along I-70 between the Indiana Convention Center and the Indianapolis International Airport and a full-page ad in the IndyStar that will run in the print edition Thursday through Saturday.

The NRA did not immediately return a request for comment.

President Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas on May 4, 2018. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

“In public, NRA executives push members to support an extreme ‘guns everywhere’ agenda — but in private, their top priority seems to be lining their own pockets,” Everytown president John Feinblatt said in a statement. “The NRA isn’t really a gun rights group anymore.”

An accompanying report highlights what Everytown calls the “scandals and investigations rocking the NRA,” including a recent New Yorker exposé detailing how a small group of NRA executives, contractors and vendors “extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget.” Everytown, in turn, filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service challenging the NRA’s tax-exempt status.

The full-page ad that will run in the Indy Star during this weekend's NRA convention. (Image: Courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety)

The report also highlights the NRA’s ties to Maria Butina, a 30-year-old Russian gun rights activist who pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and failure to register as a foreign agent in a case that was cited in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Her plea agreement details how she cultivated her relationship with a “Gun Rights Organization,” widely reported to be the NRA.)

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to appear at the NRA convention on Friday. Trump will deliver the keynote address at the NRA’s Leadership Forum for the third consecutive year.

The organization spent than $30 million to support Trump’s candidacy in 2016, more than three times the amount it spent to support Mitt Romney in 2012.

“I think he’s probably there to kiss the ring,” Feinblatt said during a conference call Wednesday.

But the Everytown campaign argues that the NRA’s “power and influence is waning.” It cites declining NRA revenues as well as instances of congressional candidates returning or donating NRA contributions.

“Their stranglehold on American politicians is loosening,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group affiliated with Everytown.

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