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News & Editorials

#1 Top Lobby: NRA

by John Rich

Fortune Magazine, May 2001

The top 25 most influential lobbying groups:

#1 National Rifle Association

The National Rifle Association has replaced the American Association of Retired Persons as the group with the most clout in the capital.

Although city slickers might be aghast at the ascendancy of the NRA, this is a highly focused, well-financed organization. Despite high-profile school shootings and unrelenting pressure from gun-control advocates, the NRA has held gun-control legislation at bay. How? By electing its supporters to Congress and, last year, to the White House. In particular, the NRA was pivotal in defeating Al Gore in Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia--all states that usually vote Democratic. If Gore had won just one of them, he would now be President. 

Nothing inspires zealotry like a threat, and few people feel more threatened than gun owners, more and more of whom are finding comfort in the NRA. It has 4.3 million members, up one million since last year, and two million since 1998. Its budget increased from $180 million to $200 million last year, including $35 million for political campaigns. The money supports a state-of-the-art lobbying machine with its own national newscast, one million precinct-level political organizers, and an in-housetelemarketing department. The NRA's pre-election rallies in 25 cities last year drew 5,000 to 9,000 people each--often more than Gore drew. 

The "Power 25" list is based on responses to a survey sent to over 2,900 people, including every member of Congress, senior Capitol Hill staffers, senior White House aides, professional lobbyists, and top-ranking officers of the largest lobbying groups in Washington.

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