Iowa’s congressional leaders respond to ‘accepting’ NRA money

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Iowa’s congressional leaders respond to ‘accepting’ NRA money

Madeleine Neal, [email protected]

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, have responded to claims that they are two of the highest National Rifle Association-supported members of the U.S. Congress by making one thing clear: They both said the claims are false.

“No, I have not received [money from the NRA],” Ernst said. “We need to make that really clear, because folks like The Des Moines Register have run away with this saying I have received $3 million — I have not received $3 million.”

Ernst was referring to a Feb. 19 article in the Register that cited a New York Times opinion piece contending that Ernst ranked seventh among senators in donations from the NRA at more than $3 million. The article also said Young is the third highest in NRA funding in the House of Representatives.

The Times article, which was published in October 2017, only days after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas, resurfaced after the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, which claimed 17 lives.

Young said outside groups such as the NRA act on “their own free will.”

“They get involved in advocating for or against candidates, and I can’t control, nor can any member of Congress control, what they do,” Young said. “If you did, that would be coordination, and those communications would be illegal, and I’m going to abide by the law.”

Young said when it comes to his campaign, he wants to be in control of his image and message.

“I get quite bothered when those outside groups get involved, if they’re for or against you,” he said.

Ernst also acknowledged that the NRA has made donations from PACs, which, she said were small in scale and were regulated by federal law.

“It’s no different than any other campaign out there, so please make that clear,” she said.

Ernst emphasized that she has no control over NRA-funded political advertisements.

“The way people like to make it sound is, ‘Oh, we have just given Joni Ernst $3 million to do whatever she wants with’ — that is absolutely false,” she said.

Young said he has what he calls formal, simple, commonsense rules when it comes to fundraising on his own: “Solicit legally, accept legally, and no quid pro quo.”

While denying contentions that she receives NRA money, Ernst noted that she supports the Second Amendment.

“I was a member of the NRA just as private citizen, before the NRA had any idea who little Joni Ernst from Montgomery County was,” she said. “You know, I was a member, and I don’t back away from that, because I do believe that our citizens have the right to defend themselves.”

Young said he views the NRA is not as a large group but as the smaller group of constituents he represents in Iowa’s 3rd District.