The NRA’s Cozy Relationship With the US Interior Department

Image: Evam Vucc/AP

In an investigative piece, the Guardian has revealed rampant corruption happening in the Interior Department where a top official (Benjamin Cassidy, a former NRA lobbyist) did a series of special favors for the National Rifle Association. This is just a glimpse of the NRA’s influence over the Interior department:

  • The appointment of Susan LaPierre, a prominent NRA member and the wife of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, to the board of the National Parks Foundation.
  • Interior secretary, David Bernhardt, has also made multiple appearances on NRA media channels in recent years, and in June he announced a proposal to open more than 1.4m acres of national wildlife refuge land to hunting and fishing activities. The NRA celebrated the move, calling it a “proposal supported and encouraged by the NRA”.
  • Cassidy helped an NRA official join the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), an advisory body set up by the department to help shape policy regarding “international recreational hunting”

Shooting on Public Lands: One of the biggest pushes Benjamin Cassidy has made at the Interior Department is for expanded recreational shooting on public lands. As the Guardian reported,

Almost immediately after joining DOI in October 2017, for instance, Cassidy reached out to Susan Recce, director of the NRA’s conservation, wildlife and natural resources program, asking her to weigh in on an interior department plan to limit recreational shooting at the Sonoran Desert national monument in Arizona, a plan the NRA was keenly interested in.

Why This Matters: The NRA gave $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign and these series of favors are a blatant quid pro quo. But what is the NRA looking to get out of it?

As Think Progress explained, the NRA may be using the Interior department and “specifically the National Park Service, to tie gun ownership to conservation and the outdoors and, in the process, to close loopholes and sell more guns.”

Go Deeper: The Trump administration has chosen to help industry donors over protecting science and public lands. It was just revealed by the Washington Post that a data model that could help farmers manage the impact of a changing climate on their crops isn’t able to be accessed because “the ambitious federal researcher who created it in Washington quit rather than move when the Agriculture Department relocated his agency to an office park here last fall.”

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