OLYMPIA — In its first legislative session, a new state gun-control group appears to have won the money battle but lost the legislation war.
The Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, founded this winter to combat the influence of the gun-rights lobby, outspent the National Rifle Association (NRA) $16,666 to $14,966 during a debate in the Legislature on whether to require background checks for more gun sales, according to recently filed disclosure documents.
The proposal, House Bill 1588, came two votes short in the state House. It never got a vote in the state Senate.
The Alliance is now pursuing an initiative campaign for expanded background checks, which are currently required only for sales from licensed gun dealers.
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In January through March, the Alliance spent the $16,666 on payments to three contract lobbyists, according to the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) documents.
Its principal contributor and one of its founders is Nick Hanauer, a Seattle entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
The NRA paid about $8,500 in salary and roughly $6,000 in personal expenses for one of its staff lobbyists, Brian Judy. The organization also spent $409 for Judy to take lawmakers out for meals.
Judy’s most common dinner date was state Rep. Brian Blake, a conservative Aberdeen Democrat credited with rallying opposition to the bill.
April expense reports are due May 15, but there were few gun-related decisions made that month.
Judy, who lists his salary at $99,995 per year, is a longtime state lobbyist who also works in Alaska, Montana and Utah. He spent more time and money in Washington this year than in any of the past 10 years, according to the PDC. The NRA spent an average $6,200 on lobbying in Washington over that time.
Judy said he’s not surprised he got outspent.
“Am I surprised that the myth I hear about the National Rifle Association buying lawmakers is not reality? No,” Judy said. “Now maybe you can start looking at other myths about gun owners.”
But Alliance spokesman Christian Sinderman said that looking only at legislative lobbying ignores the other efforts of the NRA and other Second Amendment groups, including the money they donate to political campaigns.
“If you add all of that up, I think we’re probably a fraction,” he said.
The NRA spent about $22,000 on Washington state political races in 2012, according to the PDC. Another group, the Gun Owners Action League of Washington, spent more than $90,000.
The Alliance did not exist last year.
Brian M. Rosenthal:
360-236-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.