The country’s largest gun-rights group is ramping up its ad spending ahead of the midterm elections.
The National Rifle Association’s Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the group’s Super PAC, released a series of 15-second digital attack ads last week targeting the battleground Senate races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, and Wisconsin. The ads nearly universally feature attacks against the respective Democratic candidate in each race for supporting gun-control measures and being “soft on crime.”
The ads mark a major push for the NRA with just three weeks left for the election. They were quietly released on the organization’s Youtube channel with little to no promotion from either the group’s website or social media pages. That stands in stark contrast to the major gun-control groups Everytown and Giffords, who have been heavily promoting their multi-million dollar ad buys.
Everytown has focused much of its advertising not on guns, but on abortion instead. The NRA ads focus on firearms with the exception of its offering in Pennsylvania, which was exclusively about crime.
“John Fetterman wants to let dangerous criminals run rampant and release murderers out on the streets,” the ad begins. “Dr. Oz is committed to keeping our communities safe. Protect your family. Vote Dr. Oz for Senate.”
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment about its messaging on crime or how much the group plans to invest in advertising for midterm races. According to Federal Election Commission data tracked by Open Secrets, the group has spent $8,657,617 on federal elections in 2022, $5,683,993 of which came from the Victory Fund.
The NRA ads come after Everytown’s Super PAC pledged to spend $7.2 million on attack ads in battleground states Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia through the first two weeks of October. Everytown has since announced another $2.7 million investment in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado.
The group’s latest ads against Republican Joe O’Dea focus primarily on abortion and former President Donald Trump.
“MAGA Republicans are all-in for Joe O’Dea, and it’s easy to see why,” the ad begins. “Joe O’Dea voted for a measure to ban abortion in Colorado — even in cases of rape or incest. And could help MAGA Republicans pass a national abortion ban.”
“Like Trump, O’Dea sides with the gun lobby,” the ad continues. “And would make it easier for dangerous people to get guns — putting our police and communities at risk. Joe O’Dea: He’s with MAGA Republicans, not Colorado.”
O’Dea supports legal abortion access for up to five months and has explicitly denounced Trump, drawing a public rebuke from the former President.
This election season arrives amid ongoing internal strife at the NRA. Ongoing legal feuds and allegations of corruption against the NRA’s leadership have coincided with a precipitous decline in revenue and falling membership, according to an internal report published by The Reload earlier this year. At the same time, administrative legal fees have ballooned to over $48 million in 2021, eclipsing the spending dedicated to any other line item in the group’s budget.
The group also faces an ongoing corruption lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.). That suit could lead to a judge removing NRA leadership and restructuring the organization, though the threat of dissolution is no longer on the table.