Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 21, 2013

Fact Check: Jones says 1% of NRA candidates won

Van Jones says just 1 percent of NRA-endorsed candidates won in 2012

Our rating: False

Both supporters and critics of the National Rifle Association have acknowledged that the pro-gun group flexes significant political muscle.

But Van Jones, one of the hosts of CNN’s Crossfire, suggested in a recent show that the NRA’s reputation of invincibility is exaggerated.

“The NRA is not popular on a big scale,” Jones said. “They can cherry-pick their focus. ... 1 percent of candidates that they endorsed in 2012 won — 1 percent.”

We wondered whether the NRA was really as ineffectual in 2012 as Jones suggested. Neither Jones nor the NRA responded to inquiries for this story, but we suspect that Jones was referring to research released after the 2012 election by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks money in politics.

The foundation looked at a variety of politically active groups to determine how much of the money they spent on the 2012 election was directed toward supporting candidates who won or opposing candidates who lost, as opposed to money spent on candidates who lost or against candidates who won.

The foundation then produced a “return on investment” — the percentage of the group’s money that was spent on races that ended with the group’s desired result.

In 2012, a year when President Barack Obama won a second term and the Democrats held the Senate, a number of liberal groups fared well on this score: Affiliates of Planned Parenthood, the Service Employees International Union and the League of Conservation Voters finished with returns on investment of 80 percent and higher. By contrast, conservative or pro-business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads finished with percentages in the single digits.

So how did the NRA do? Sunlight looked at two of its affiliates - the Political Victory Fund and the Institute for Legislative Action. (The two groups are organized under different parts of the tax code, but they have the same goal — promoting candidates who support the NRA’s agenda.)

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