A review of campaign contributions made by the National Rifle Association shows the group has given more money to U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora than any other member of Colorado’s congressional delegation since 2010.
Over the four election cycles won by Coffman, the NRA gave him a total of $33,700.
NRA contributions have become a hot topic in the wake of last week’s shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old former student is charged with using an AR-15 assault rifle to kill 17 students and adults.
Wednesday, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America placed a full two-page advertisement in the New York Times, identifying 276 members of Congress who had taken NRA money. All four Republicans in Colorado’s House delegation made the list, as did Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Second on the list of the state’s NRA beneficiaries is Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, who has received $18,950 in the last four election cycles. In his first race, in 2010, Tipton’s opponent, Democratic Rep. John Salazar of Manassa, received $3,000 from the group, the only time it has donated to a Colorado Democrat in the past four election cycles, according to Open Secrets, which tracks campaign contributions.
Tipton’s biggest NRA contribution came in 2012, when he received $9,450. He took in $3,500 in both 2014 and 2016 from the NRA.
The donations represent only direct support and do not include indirect support or money spent by the NRA to oppose the candidates’ challengers. Factoring in those numbers, Gardner has received $3.9 million in support from the NRA during his career and Tipton has received more than $103,000 in support from the NRA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Coffman was one of nine members of Congress who received the NRA’s maximum donation of $9,900 in 2016. He received the same amount in 2012 and 2014. In his first run for Congress, Coffman took in $3,000 in NRA contributions.
According to Open Secrets, the NRA gave an average of $2,681 each to 214 Republicans in 2016 and slightly less than that, $2,110, to five Democrats. Total spending in the House by the NRA in 2016 topped $584,000, with the vast majority going to incumbents.
The NRA also has given money to Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs, but in smaller donations, at $2,000 per election cycle. Gardner took a $4,950 contribution from the NRA in his bid for the Senate in 2014, when he defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.
Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley has taken in the least from the NRA, a $3,000 contribution in 2014. He did not receive a contribution from the NRA in 2016 but did get a $1,000 check from the group last October, according to the Federal Elections Commission. Coffman also got a $1,000 donation from the NRA last November.
In a statement to Colorado Politics, Coffman’s campaign manager Tyler Sandberg pointed out that the NRA contributions made up a very small fraction of the total raised by the Aurora congressman in his election bids, more than $13 million since 2012.
“Mike has long been a supporter of responsible gun ownership, and it demeans this important policy debate to place the blame for these horrible acts at the feet of the millions of law-abiding men and women who count themselves as dues-paying members of the NRA,” Sandberg said. Coffman has been working on reforms on this issue, Sandberg noted, including mental health, school safety improvements and stronger coordination among law enforcement agencies.
Sandberg said that Coffman is open to laws prohibiting purchases of semi-automatic weapons by anyone younger than 21, a position supported by President Donald Trump. Coffman is also interested in a law that would allow law enforcement to remove a weapon from someone who is believed to be a threat to themselves or others, Sandberg said. Coffman has also been a sponsor on two bills intended to prevent school shootings: the School Safety Act of 2017 and a 2016 measure, Families In Mental Health Crisis, which later became part of the 2016 21st Century Cures Act.