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NRA contributions focus on Republican, Conservative parties

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Feb. 22, 2018. Credit: AP / Jacquelyn Martin

ALBANY — The National Rifle Association makes few political donations directly to politicians in heavily Democratic New York, but instead has spread more than $175,000 in contributions over the past 10 years to political parties and more than $13,000 to the parties and politicians through its state affiliate, state records show.

The NRA Political Victory Fund contributed $124,500 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee in the last 10 years, according to state Board of Elections records. During the same period, the National Rifle Association of America, based in Virginia, contributed $54,000 to the New York State Conservative Party, which also funds Republicans.

In addition, the NRA’s state affiliate, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, contributed $5,000 to the state Republican Committee in 2014; $4,750 to the Assembly Republican Campaign Committee from 1999 to 2001; and $1,000 to the Conservative Party in 2016. The association also gave to individual lawmakers.

“Going through party committees, leaves no direct public fingerprints,” said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. “It is far more difficult for the public to track NRA money to individual candidates. The committees can let candidates know where the money came from.”

Tom King of the state Rifle and Pistol Association didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The NRA is an organization that fights for individual liberty and freedom,” said state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long. “I think they are a very responsible organization and over the years I have been a dues-paying member. While I don’t possess a gun, I have over the years supported them.”

Thousands more in contributions went to state officeholders upstate, where the NRA and gun owner rights are more popular, and others went to local candidates.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) is the only recipient of NRA cash within the Long Island congressional delegation. He received $19,800 from the NRA Political Victory Fund, all in 2016, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said, “The congressman supports the rights of law-abiding Americans to own firearms to protect themselves, their family, and other loved ones. He also believes that there should be productive, substantive conversations taking place following Parkland in pursuit of common ground that will result in meaningful action.”

Five state senators and three Assembly members from Long Island — or about a third of the delegation — received donations from the state Rifle and Pistol Association.

The association gave $1,000 to state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in 2016. He received $500 over a decade ago when he was in the Assembly, serving in the GOP minority.

Also in the Republican-controlled state Senate, Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) each received $500 in contributions from the association in 1999 and 2000, and Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) received $500 in 2012.

The association also gave $500 to state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) in 2014; Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) received $1,475 between 2012 and 2016; Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) received $200 in 2017; and then-Assemb. Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) received $250 in 2012, according to state records.

“Campaign contributions have absolutely no effect whatsoever on public policy,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for Flanagan and the state Senate’s Republican majority. “We take our responsibility to lead and to govern seriously, and as such every issue is considered and decided on the merits.”

Montesano said the contribution to him shows support from sportsmen.

“As a former police officer, I want nothing more than to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and people with mental illness who could put themselves or others at risk,” Montesano said. “I feel we should work across party lines for common sense reforms to keep our communities safe.”

Other legislators didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The NRA and its affiliates “still want to reward loyalists,” said Robert J. Spitzer, distinguished professor of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and author of several books including “Guns Across America — Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights.”

“They want the Senate to remain Republican, and would like to repeal the NY SAFE Act,” Spitzer said, referring to Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature gun-control measure from 2013. “They have enough money to spend in places like New York, and always causes to fight.”

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