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Archive for Sunday, December 7, 2003

NRA targets spending limit

Group wants to be treated as media outlet

December 7, 2003

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— Hoping to spend as much as it wants on next year's elections, the National Rifle Assn. is looking to buy a television or radio station and declare that it should be treated as a news organization, exempt from spending limits in the campaign finance law.

"We're looking at bringing a court case that we're as legitimate a media outlet as Disney or Viacom or Time-Warner," the NRA's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, told The Associated Press.

"Why should they have an exclusive right to relay information to the public, and why should not NRA be considered as legitimate a news source as they are? That's never been explored legally," he said in an interview.

The nation's gun lobby is talking with potential investors about an NRA broadcast outlet and is considering all possible funding sources, including gun manufacturers, LaPierre said.

If the NRA were to be considered a media organization, it would be free to say what it wanted about candidates at any time and spend corporate money to do so, such as for commercials.

The group, financed in part with corporate money, is now banned under the campaign finance law from running ads, just before elections, that mention federal candidates who are on states' ballots.

The 4 million-member group has long been one of Washington's most powerful lobbies. It has spent millions of dollars over the years trying to influence elections toward candidates who oppose gun controls and support the position that Americans have an incontestable right to bear arms.

The NRA is one of the biggest magazine publishers in the United States and provides news over the Internet, LaPierre said. The group has close to a dozen publications, including the "American Rifleman" and "American Hunter" magazines.

The finance law took effect in November 2002.

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