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NRA Promises to Hold Fire on Campaign Disclosure Bill

The National Rifle Association is publicly pledging to uphold its end of the bargain with House Democratic leadership over a measure to roll back a controversial Supreme Court decision on political spending.

The gun lobby’s position, in essence: Leave us alone, and we’ll leave your bill alone. The opposition of the powerhouse grass-roots organization was threatening to sink the broader package, so leaders crafted a carve-out to exempt it from new disclosure requirements.

In an unattributed statement Tuesday afternoon, the group confirmed the deal. “As a result, and as long as that remains the case, the NRA will not be involved in final consideration of the House bill,” the statement said.

But while pledging neutrality, the group made clear that without a carve-out, it would otherwise object to the DISCLOSE Act, which is designed to beef up disclosure, political coordination and disclaimer requirements in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that overturned existing rules.

“The NRA cannot defend the Second Amendment from the attacks we face in the local, state, federal, international and judicial arenas without the ability to speak,” the statement continued. “We will not allow ourselves to be silenced while the national news media, politicians and others are allowed to attack us freely. The NRA will continue to fight for its right to speak out in defense of the Second Amendment. Any efforts to silence the political speech of NRA members will, as has been the case in the past, be met with strong opposition.”

A coalition of five government reform groups including Democracy 21, Public Citizen and the League of Women Voters sent a letter to House lawmakers on Tuesday urging them to support the manager’s amendment that will include the NRA’s fix and the broader package.

But other outside groups advocating government transparency decried the deal. Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation said she was “beyond outraged.” Miller said, “It is so damaging to this legislation, we have to wonder whether the bill will be worth anything.” And U.S. PIRG, which had backed the measure, said it would now oppose it as long as it contains the exemption.

Some politically vulnerable House Democrats have expressed reservations about the bill, citing opposition from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others. Those concerns remain. But a question for leaders now playing out is whether fallout from the NRA deal will cost them significant votes from their liberal flank.

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