Scott McNutt uses a comment by Courtney Rogers — that she’s not going to be a one-issue legislator after beating House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart — as a starting point for a satire salvo targeting politicians, the National Rifle Association and allies.
A Snark Bites excerpt: Cox suggested that the solution was for the NRA to appoint its own officials to state government.
“It’s less expensive, and we’d no longer have to go to the regrettable lengths of making examples of more of you — as our dear friend John Harris, president of the Tennessee Firearms Association, put it — with high-profile political crucifixions, as we were forced to do with poor Debra,” Cox explained.
Cox added that gun-advocate groups “probably represent a larger constituency than your Democratic counterparts in your so-called two-party system.”
Harwell responded that the Legislature’s leaders would do their utmost to respect the rights of gun zealots and find ways to coexist peacefully with them within the legislative structure.
“We will always do what is best for the state of Tennessee’s government,” Harwell said. “We are always open to discussion, but our job is to upend, er, uphold the Constitution and do what’s best for the state government’s officials. And if allowing the NRA to appoint its own government members is what’s best for us, you can rest assured they’ll be appointed, lickety-split.”
Cox said that, whether it was accomplished through sponsored legislators or NRA-appointed government officials, the organization would be passing a bill in the next legislative session to guarantee that weapons could await their owners in their owners’ vehicles parked at work, regardless of employers’ wishes.
…”In the next session, we plan to bring bills for guns in kindergartens, guns in nursery schools, guns in maternity wards and for emergency guns being installed in public places next to fire alarms with instructions reading, ‘In case of emergency, pull trigger,’ ” he explained. “Such emergency kits would have prevented some of the recent tragedies where innocent firearms were wrongly used.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam reacted cautiously to the dialogue between the gun activists and Harwell, saying he didn’t yet know if he would now pay fealty to the NRA’s Cox.
“It’s a little early to comment on whether I’ll be genuflecting to perform the traditional kissing of the NRA’s ceremonial rifle butt,” Haslam said. “But does this guarantee that we’ll be talking about how I might appease the NRA next year? Yes, it does.”
The Tennessee Republican leadership trinity — Gov. Bill Haslam, House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — were in northeast Tennessee and talking about House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart’s race in Middle Tennessee. Hank Hayes has a report on their comments about the NRA attack on Maggart. The NRA is also spending money on billboards comparing Maggart to President Barack Obama, a Democrat.
“They’re spending more on one race than they have in the last 10 years in the legislature … and spending $75,000 statewide,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, said before the state government leaders held an event at Northeast State Community College to discuss post-secondary education.
Harwell, R-Nashville, said the NRA-TFA effort involves “an extreme amount of money” and “an unwise use” of their resources.
“Debra has a 90 percent voting record with them and has done everything they wanted. … She deserves to be re-elected,” said Harwell. “I’m sorry they chose to fight that battle. I think it’s the wrong one. (House GOP members) are more angry that a group we have worked well with over the years has decided to come out and attack one of our members. It’s true anger.”
Haslam, a Republican, was confident Maggart will win her primary battle.
“It’s hard to believe she is not conservative enough. … Surveys in the (House) district indicate issues about guns are not on the top of the agenda,” Haslam said.
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Threats, denunciations and verbal potshots between the National Rifle Association and the leaders of the Legislature were common in the decades that Democrats ran the show in the Tennessee Capitol. Turns out Republicans are just as good at running afoul of the powerful gun rights group.
GOP leaders in Nashville infuriated the NRA this year by refusing to go along with a bill to prevent businesses from banning guns on their property, and now the group is using its deep pockets to try to unseat one of them. Elsewhere, NRA-backed measures also ran into Republican roadblocks in Georgia, Alabama, Idaho and North Carolina this year.
The NRA notes recent successes in the legislatures of Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina, describing the recent setbacks as temporary.
“First of all the legislative process is rarely quick and is rarely pretty,” chief NRA lobbyist Chris W. Cox said in a phone interview. “We certainly take the long view and we’re committed to bring this not only to Tennessee but across the country.”
The NRA is backing up its words with campaign cash in Tennessee, spending $75,000 in an effort to defeat the No. 3 Republican in the state House, Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville.
The National Rifle Association is spending $75,000 to unseat House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart while asking all state legislators whether they will side next year with the organization, even if it means breaking with GOP leadership.
In a filing with the state Registry of Election Finance, the NRA Political Victory Fund disclosed plans to spend a total of $75,373 in the House District 45 Republican primary, roughly half designated for attacking the Hendersonville lawmaker and half toward helping her opponent, Courtney Rogers.
In a March 31 report, Maggart reported $86,066 cash on hand in her campaign account while Rogers, a retired Air Force officer, had $3,585. New reports are due next Monday and will include results of a fundraiser Gov. Bill Haslam co-hosted for Maggart.
The NRA filed its report listing the new expenditures ahead of the deadline. Other than attacking Maggart and promoting Rogers, the only spending listed in the report is a $2,500 donation to the campaign of Rep. Joshua Evans, R-Greenbrier.
The National Rifle Association wants Tennessee legislative candidates to declare whether they will back Republican leaders or the NRA next year if that’s what it takes to put a controversial guns-in-parking lots bill up for a full vote, reports the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. In a gun-issues survey sent to Republican and Democratic candidates, the NRA devotes two of 27 questions to the Safe Commute Act, which cleared most committees but never came up for House and Senate floor votes this year.
The NRA-backed bill, as amended, sought to block public and private employers’ ability to bar workers, customers and most visitors from keeping firearms in locked vehicles on company property, provided the weapons are stored out of sight.
The survey asks candidates if they would support the bill and blames Republican leaders for blocking full House and Senate votes this year.
“As a legislator, would you follow the demands of party leadership even if they run contrary to the NRA’s legislative agenda?” the survey asks.
In an interview, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulandandam called the survey question “pretty straightforward and self-explanatory.”
“At the NRA we’re not shy. We don’t mince words,” he said.
….House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said the survey question “sounds like they were asking, ‘Will you do what we tell you to do instead of sticking by leadership?'”
…When Democrats controlled the General Assembly, the NRA routinely criticized leadership for bottling up gun bills.
This election cycle, Democrats aren’t shedding any tears for the GOP chieftains.
“It’s the residue of the Republicans promising the moon [while in the minority], knowing they couldn’t deliver anything” Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis said. “And now that they’re piloting the space shuttle, it’s different.”
Switching metaphors, Kyle said, “It’s the chickens coming home to roost.”
At least four Republican legislators have used campaign funds to pay National Rifle Association dues, according to reports filed with the Registry of Election Finance.
That’s perfectly legal so long as there memberships are for political purposes, and not for personal interest, said Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
In interviews, two of the four – House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick of Chattanooga and Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol, said they did, indeed, view NRA membership as political, not personal. The other two, Sens. Jack Johnson of College Grove and Steve Southerland of Morristown, were not contacted but presumably would share the sentiment.
“It’s a personal interest, too, but it’s certainly political,” said McCormick, who used $750 from his campaign account to get an NRA life membership in 2008. “I felt like it was appropriate.”
McCormick and NRA lobbyists were at odds in this year’s session – as with Maggart and the Tennessee Firearms Association – over the “guns in parking lots” bill and related legislation drafted by the NRA. The majority leader said he has no intention of ending his association with the organization, despite “a few disagreements.”
“I’m going to stick with them. I still have faith in them,” he said. “I just don’t like Washington lobbyists telling me what to do…. I don’t think they do a very good job of lobbying, but despite that I’m going to stick with them for a while.”
Besides, he added, “I doubt they would give me a refund. They’re concentrated a lot on raising money.”
The NRA had three lobbyists registered during the past Tennessee legislative session. A reporter’s calls to the organization’s lobbying headquarters near Washington, seeking comment from one of the three, were not returned.