NRA Board To Pass Resolution on CARA: Opposed Member
John G. Lankford
October 29, 2001
National Rifle Association (NRA) Board of Directors member Dr. David Oliver Friday night declared the Board will need to pass a resolution supporting, opposing, or taking a neutral stance on CARA next weekend.
Oliver also for the first time listed himself as personally opposed to CARA, joining a number of directors who have publicly announced opposition, but added, "However, if I hear a compelling reason to support the bill, I just may do that. I want to try to hear all the facts, before I lock my decision in concrete."
CARA is the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 701, a highly controversial measure that would divert over $45 billion in federal offshore oil revenues from the general fund to a number of special-purpose funds over 15 years. The measure's endorsement by the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, its lobbying arm, touched off a furor among members when it was made known late in the summer.
"For most of the Board, this will be the first time CARA has ever been discussed," Oliver stated, adding, "A policy to support CARA has never been set by the Board of Directors."
Formally, the Directors set NRA policy, including legislative policy. In practice, the association's legislative arm operates freely, the likelihood of breaching the directoral consensus being low. "Probably, somewhat naively and without any ulterior motives, ILA (Jim Baker) unofficially announced support of CARA," Oliver said.
Recent ILA letters have defended the lobbying institute's stance, noting it has been constant since CARA was first introduced in 1998. Its author and co-sponsor is Board member Congressman Don Young, R-AK. But when the controversy over the bill erupted among NRA members in the late summer, directors reported most of them had no idea what the measure was about.
Dr. Oliver became de facto moderator of an informal e-mail conference including board members, journalists, opponents, and others. The rhetoric grew so voluminous and heated he declared the e-caucus suspended after about a month, referring all announcements and questions to the NRA fall convention then scheduled for mid-September. But the September 11 assault on the USA caused two postponements of the meetings, affording directors more study time.
Several directors have announced opposition. "Ted Nugent, Congresswoman Barbara Cubin, Senator Larry Craig and possibly other congressmen and former congressmen who are on our Board" are opposed, Oliver acknowledged. Sheriff Jay Printz, another Board member, announced opposition last weekend.
In addition, at least two state NRA affiliates, the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association and the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, have also publicly denounced CARA. Gun Owners of America, not affiliated with NRA, has also announced opposition, as have several other firearms-centered organizations.
Oliver revealed his own opposition in a letter to a disgruntled member threatening to resign his NRA membership over the issue. The member charged the Board had adopted a stance in support of CARA, which Oliver corrected.
"The (NRA) board overriding the (NRA-ILA) staff is unheard of, and even in this case is unlikely," judged Mike Hardiman, lobbyist for the property-rights-protective American Land Rights Association (ALRA) October 22. "I absolutely guarantee you that if NRA pulls support from CARA, the bill will be dead as a doornail. CARA will lose scores of Republican congressmen's support, and the House Republican leadership will refuse to put it up for a vote because of lack of GOP support," Hardiman continued.
CARA has been passed by the House Resources Committee with a favorable recommendation to the entire House, but has not yet been called to the floor for deliberation and a vote. Two parallel CARA bills have been filed in the Senate and referred to committee. One-time NRA Executive vice-president and former board-member G. Ray Arnett has opined passage in the House seems certain, and efforts to defeat the bill may be more promising in the Senate.
More than 240 House members have signed on as co-sponsors of CARA, but another former director and officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, speculated that many were awed by NRA's lobbying strength when the bill, stalled in 2000, was re-introduced this year. The association is credited with a great show of strength in the 2000 presidential and congressional elections, believed responsible for swaying the outcomes in several states. Should the NRA Board adopt and opposed or even a neutral stance, he indicated many co-sponsors may change their minds.
Oliver wrote Friday, "The autumn Board of Directors and committee meetings start next week, on 31 Oct, and run through 4 Nov. CARA will be discussed in 2 committees - Hunting and Wildlife Conservation and Legislative Policy." The full Board meeting follows November 3-4. The conclave will be at NRA headquarters in Washington, D.C.