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NRA A+ Rated Florida Senator's Handling of Marion Hammer Ethics Investigation Draws Questions

Last month, Florida State Senator Perry Thurston and State Representative Anna Eskamani accused longtime NRA board member, former NRA president and NRA lobbyist in Florida Marion Hammer of failing to disclose lobbying payments as required by Florida law, filing formal complaints with the Florida House and Senate. Reporting indicates that the amount Hammer failed to report was upwards of $900,000 she received from the NRA. According to a new report from the Florida Bulldog, NRA allies within the Florida Senate are ignoring the Senate’s rules for how to conduct such an investigation against state lobbyists.

Florida law requires that contract lobbyists such as Hammer register and disclose their compensation. Rule 9.6 of the Florida Senate Rules and Manual for 2018-2019, which was adopted in November, mandates that complaints alleging violations of this rule are to be sent to the Senate Rules Committee Chair. If the Chair finds within 30 days that the complaint, if true, would indeed violate the rules, it is then “referred to a special master or select committee to determine probable cause.”

Despite this rule, Senate Rules Committee Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, an NRA “political ally” who has received an A+ rating from the organization, directed the investigation to the Office of Legislative Services, an “obscure bureaucratic office,” that traditionally handles lobbyist registrations. The OLS is under the authority of Senate President Bill Galvano.

The Florida Bulldog’s Dan Christensen writes:

“…the path Benacquisto chose ignores the Senate’s own rules on how such matters are to be handled, most notably Rule 9.6. Curiously, her letter omits mention of that rule.

“More important to a high-profile lobbyist like Hammer, however, is that Senate rules say that violators ‘shall’ be’“admonished, censured, reprimanded, placed on probation or prohibited from lobbying for the duration of the session and from appearing before any Senate committee.’’ Hammer has declined comment.”

The NRA opposed gun safety reforms passed after the Parkland shooting, which included raising the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21, a red flag law and prohibiting the sale and possession of bump stocks.

This controversy is one of many reports detailing alleged financial mismanagement and widespread intrigue at the highest levels of the NRA’s leadership, including Hammer’s longtime allies, NRA executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre and the NRA’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Cox, who heads the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, has been suspended, after the NRA filed a complaint accusing Cox of complicity in a failed coup against NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. Also yesterday, the New Yorker uncovered that the NRA’s former longtime CFO was accused of embezzling more than $1 million from a previous employer. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that, according to the NRA’s 2018 financial report, the group slashed funding for core programs and electoral engagement at the same time its spending ballooned on administrative and legal fees, fundraising expenses, office supplies and travel and entertainment.