The hatred of — and love for — the NRA and Planned Parenthood will drive much of nastiness of the upcoming secret money political campaign to win or stop a decisive 50th Senate vote (from West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, Alaska, or Maine) for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
One Supreme Court judge could reverse cases like the 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart, forcing states to allow late-term partial-birth abortions or the 2008 Columbia v. Heller decision forcing them to allow their residents to buy handguns — meaning nothing is more important to the NRA and Planned Parenthood than the next Supreme Court Judge.
Since starting Take Back Our Republic to find common ground between conservatives and reformers concerned about the corrupting influence of secret money in politics, those willing to start a civil conversation about many issues sometimes add, “I can work with anyone except the NRA,” or “I can work with anyone except Planned Parenthood.” Both sides accuse the other of everything from breaking campaign finance laws (the focus of Take Back Our Republic) to being responsible for thousands of horrible deaths.
It is impossible for anyone to be unbiased in looking at the two organizations — and I am no exception as the pro-life father of nine who even worked for current NRA President Ollie North during one campaign early in my career. For purposes of this op-ed let’s at least understand why these are the two groups are both the most hated by their opponents and loved and recognized as the two groups with the strongest and broadest grassroots organizations in American politics today.
Two Strongest Grassroots Organizations in the US
First, the groups are the ultimate grassroots organizations of millions of Americans — which are what should fuel a Democratic Republic instead of outside secret political money.
Five million Americans have actual NRA memberships, and almost that many get services or take classes offered by Planned Parenthood, giving both an army of supporters. However, their natural constituencies include tens of millions of supporters willing to vote for the candidate each group states is positive on their issues.
Right now about 40 million women are using contraceptives, and at least 40 million households have guns. You can add additional millions of “natural constituents” to each group due to the fact that more than one voter lives in most of those 40 million homes with guns and millions more women past child-bearing age were regular users of contraceptives.
Not all users of contraceptives support Planned Parenthood and not all gun owners support the NRA, but many millions in each group feel they need Planned Parenthood to make it easy for them to get contraceptives or abortions or, for gun owners, count on the NRA to make it easy for them to get guns.
Hard for Politicians to Buck the Group That Backs Their Party
Perhaps the massive support for both groups was most evident during one incident in which Hillary Clinton briefly seemed to question Planned Parenthood and another when Donald Trump appeared to briefly question the NRA, only to quickly appear back on the same page.
Hillary Clinton initially acknowledged being disturbed after footage of Planned Parenthood selling baby parts emerged, and Donald Trump talked to supporters about the potential for more gun control after the shooting in South Florida. However, both of them, and most members of their respective parties, were quickly on the same page as the respective Planned Parenthood and NRA leaders within a few days.
Despite Questionable Campaign Practices
On the flip side of these incredible political constituencies are equally charged opponents to each organization, who charge each group with breaking campaigns rules to build even more political power.
We formed Take Back Our Republic in 2014 to educate, research, and advocate in favor of conservative solutions for campaign finance reforms, including the need to stop illegal, secret foreign political donations and IRS 501c4 entities from moving secret money by breaking rules limiting how much of their money can be used for political campaigns
On the fronts, each group has come under question.
The NRA acknowledged receiving foreign money (see NPR Report), and critics are skeptical they kept it separate from their massive political buys, just as pro-life Americans are suspicious that the $500 million that comes to Planned Parenthood through government reimbursements can really be kept separate from the money they make performing 321,000 abortions each year. For critics on both sides, the money all comes out in the laundry to add to the bottom line of abortion clinics or gun manufacturers.
Likewise, our sister organization, Take Back Action Fund, pointed to Open Secrets research discovering Planned Parenthood was the worst offender nationwide on spending illicit and secret funds beyond the 501c4 limit to aide elections for President Obama and other candidates who want to continue to allow partial-birth abortions.
And Despite Charges of Profiting From Killings
Of course, the harshest critics of both groups are livid about what they consider much bigger issues than the campaign finance violations that are the focus of Take Back Our Republic.
Both blame the other side for 13,000 horrible deaths a year.
For anti-NRA Americans, the gun manufacturers who fund the NRA are responsible for the 13,000 homicides with guns every year. As pointed out in this piece in The Hill after Hillary Clinton’s defense of late term abortions in the third presidential debate, there are also 13,000 late-term abortions in the U.S. each year — as the U.S. is joined only North Korea, China, and four other nations in allowing this process.
Polling on the Supreme Court Issues Most Important to Both Groups
The gun control “March for Our Lives” push to repeal the 2nd Amendment to bear arms is supported by only 21 percent of Americans (Washington Post poll), and the annual pro-life march which ironically has almost the same name (“March for Life”) sees only slightly higher support for repealing Roe v. Wade (29 percent in a recent Kaiser poll).
However, numbers can be deceiving, as we learned when polls showed most Americans wanted to repeal Obamacare and keep the Affordable Care Act even though they are the same thing. The same Washington Post poll shows that 46 percent of Americans favor modifying the 2nd Amendment to allow for stricter gun control laws, and even a poll by the Huffington Post shows Americans support sweeping prohibitions on late term abortions by a 59 percent to 30 percent margin — which would require a modification of the Roe v. Wade decision that was used to throw out Nebraska’s laws against partial-birth abortions.
The problem of course is that the discussion of the next Supreme Court judge will not be a rational discussion of these hot button issues.
Pro-lifers and other conservatives in the five key states outraged over the attempts to personally destroy GOP nominees going back to Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas will be countered by gun control supporters and other liberals in the same five states steamed over Merrick Garland not being considered during President Obama’s last year in office.
Both sides will be ripe for targeted political ads funded by secret money urging them to call or confront three Democrats who need to be re-elected in states Trump won by double digits and voted to nominate Neil Gorsuch (Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana; Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia), as well as two pro-choice Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska).
Assuming no other surprises, at least one of those five would need to vote to support the next nominee, and if health prevented Sen. John McCain from making the trip back to the Capitol to vote, then it would take two of those five.
The appeals to voters in those five states to urge their Senator to vote yes or no will be funded not only by allies of the NRA and Planned Parenthood, but liberal Constitutional Responsibility Project that our sister organization pointed out started the secretly funded attacks on Gorsuch, and the many conservative groups that countered with more secret money ads in support.
My personal note: As I stated at the beginning, as a conservative I am biased like everyone else. I personally believe there is a stronger case for modifying Roe v. Wade to get us off the list of seven countries where partial-birth abortions are easy to get. I also believe it’s much worse to try to destroy someone like Bork or Thomas than to follow the precedent I believe was set when Joe Biden said you should not approve a new Supreme Court Justice in a Presidential Election year and Harry Reid changed the rules to allow you to pick a new Supreme Court justice with a majority of the U.S. Senate. I also believe the fact that Trump actually put out his list of potential picks then argued the case of partial-birth abortion with Clinton in the final Presidential debate and was elected with more people saying they voted for him because of the court than against him because of the court — all in my mind indicating Democracy did work and his pick should be approved.
However, I do talk with many who strongly hold the exact opposite view. Regardless, we all need to understand the threat to our Republic of this being yet another round of hysterical anonymous ads from both sides making Americans hate each other more and more.
Having correctly predicted Trump's win, I believe if the elections were held today the Democrats would win the House, but the GOP would come out with 52 or 53 U.S. Senators — close enough that the Senate still could go either way in November and things could be different in 2019 if a new justice is not approved this Fall.
The NRA and Planned Parenthood are the two biggest grassroots organizations, but there are many other citizen-based organizations representing millions of people as well. They should all be heard as part of our Democratic process — but the voters also have the right to know who is paying for the nasty ads they see on their phones, computers, mailboxes, radios, and TVs to be able to truly participate in our Democracy — and in fact those ads would be much more informational and accurate as well as less nasty if whoever was paying for the ad was required to put their name on it.
It may be wishful thinking, but perhaps after being the focus of such a nasty, anonymous back and forth the next Supreme Court judge might see firsthand the threat this process poses to our democracy — and realize that Judge Kennedy was incorrect in allowing unlimited contributions under the Citizens United decision because all giving would be instantly reported.
John Pudner is Executive Director of Takeback.org, a non-profit home for Americans seeking true political reform. Our conservative solutions include: stopping illicit foreign money from impacting elections; ending pay-to-play in government contracting; and restoring the Reagan-era federal tax credit for small-dollar political contributions, which will encourage more citizens to become donors and help re-balance the campaign finance system. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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