By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
In lobbying, a threat is good for business, whether it's genuine or not.
This might help to explain the dire warnings being issued by the National Rifle Association as the Democrats prepare to take control of Congress this week.
"The new leadership could be one of the most unfriendly to the National Rifle Association," declared Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the NRA. "If there's an effort to pursue gun control, we will mount an active defense."
The famously combative lobby, with 4 million members, is displeased with the voting histories of Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats in the House and is putting them on notice that it won't tolerate passage of anti-gun measures.
The only problem: No one expects gun legislation this year.
True, a few Democrats would love to take a potshot at the NRA. But its $20 million in political firepower has long discouraged any such effort. It helped to snuff out the presidential hopes of Democrat Al Gore in 2000 and to elect dozens, mostly Republicans, to Congress.
Besides, one of the NRA's biggest backers is a Democrat, Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), who was instrumental in blocking the last major attempt at gun control in 1999 and will reclaim the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.
No matter. The NRA is on high alert, and its latest weapon is a pamphlet designed to send its members into fits of paranoid rage and to inspire them to open their wallets.
A draft of the 27-page document, which was provided to The Washington Post by a source outside the NRA, lashes out at such icons of the left as investor George Soros, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi. They are depicted as part of "a marching axis of adversaries far darker and more dangerous than gun owners have ever known."
Few places are less likely to be burgled than the Fairfax County headquarters of the NRA. But Arulanandam alleged that someone recently stole a "working draft" of the pamphlet, called "Freedom in Peril."
The document is filled with sinister-looking caricatures of supposed anti-gun figures such as filmmaker Michael Moore, comedian Rosie O'Donnell, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (R) and CBS News anchor Katie Couric. One chapter attacks Democratic lawmakers such as Sens. John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and derides them as a "Gang of Opportunists." Other NRA enemies are "One-World Extremists," "Animal Rights Terrorists" (such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and "Illegal Alien Gangs."
"America, by its free and independent nature, is a breeding ground and safe haven for violent, illegal criminal gangs," the "Gang" chapter states. "And as always, it is the lawful who will take the fall."
Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for president in 2008, and Soros, a major backer of Democratic-leaning political organizations, are singled out for extra opprobrium. "Clinton views America as the great experiment, not for freedom, but for her own political ambitions," the pamphlet states.
Soros is described as "the Hungarian-born billionaire bankroller of a globalist jihad against firearm freedom" who has been "trying to revoke the Bill of Rights through his checkbook."
Veteran NRA-watchers have seen such rhetoric before. "This is vintage NRA fear tactics from an organization that knows how to use them to energize a base of supporters who have an unhealthy terror that the forces of government will take their guns away," said Peter Hamm, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's both ugly and untrue."
Hamm also said he does not believe Congress will take up and pass major gun legislation anytime in the near future. Still, the pamphlet asserts that "towering waves of this coming storm are already crashing on our doorsteps."
The opening essay, titled "The Coming Confrontation," is signed by (and is situated next to gallant drawings of) two of the NRA's staffers, Wayne LaPierre and Chris W. Cox.
"It's inevitable that terrorists will infest America for generations to come. It's also inevitable that an anti-gun president will occupy the White House, and anti-gun forces will control the U.S. House and Senate," they write. "Unless we are well-financed to face that moment, the final disarmament of law-abiding Americans will occur beneath the shroud of anti-terrorism legislation."
So beware -- and make your checks payable to the NRA!Stop That Spin
House Democrats boast that their proposed ethics legislation will ban travel provided by lobbying organizations to lawmakers. Don't believe it.
Maneuvering by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and others has opened a gaping loophole in the bill. Lobbies such as AIPAC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have their own nonprofit foundations, which will still be allowed to underwrite congressional junkets under the new rules.
Watch for more lobbying groups to set up their own "non-lobbying" foundation affiliates as a result.
Jeffrey H. Birnbaum writes about the intersection of government and business every Tuesday. His e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.