Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Searching for smart, safe news you can TRUST?

Support safe, smart, REAL journalism. Sign up for our Axios AM & PM newsletters and get smarter, faster.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Rebeccca Zisser/Axios

The National Rifle Association has spent $9.2 million on political expenditures this cycle, about one-sixth of the $54.4 million reported in 2016, according to Federal Election Commission data tracked by Open Secrets.

Why it matters: While the group has vowed to support President Trump's re-election, mounting fees from fights with regulators, internal infighting and the pandemic have devastated its finances — and could mute its future influence.

By the numbers: The NRA has spent less than one-fifth on TV ads this year compared to what it spent in 2016, according to data from Advertising Analytics.

  • So far this year, it's spent $4.7 million on TV ads compared with $27.34 million through the end of 2016.
  • It's spent about $3.7 million for online ads this cycle, mostly Facebook and some Google ads, per Advertising Analytics. The group doesn't track digital advertising dating back to 2016.

NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter told Axios that given that it's still September, it "wouldn't be fair to compare where we are now with our spending with what we spent total in 2016."

  • To her point, about 56% of the NRA's television ad spend last cycle occurred in October. But according to Advertising Analytics, the group hasn't booked any ads yet for October or November.
  • And it still spent more than $10 million through September 2016. It's spent less than half of that so far through mid-September 2020.

The NRA will have to spend massively this cycle to match its huge outlay for Trump in 2016, and it will have to do so while triaging plummeting finances and fighting lawsuits from regulators.

  • Legal battles — including lawsuits from the attorneys general of New York and Washington, D.C. — combined with the inability to host big-money fundraisers amid the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced the once cash-rich group to lay off and furlough hundreds of employees, per The Guardian.
  • The NRA's current financial woes, experts argue, reflect volatility in the group's business model long-term.

Between the lines: The NRA was once considered one of the most powerful lobbies in American politics. Now, its inability to shell out as much cash to support Republicans across the country could mean that its days of outsized political influence are numbered.

  • "I think that there's no question about it even if you look over the last several years the NRA has fallen from maybe perhaps the most powerful political group in America to an organization that's on the brink of dissolution," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, tells Axios.
  • A 2019 analysis from the New York Times found that voters over the past six election cycles generally did not punish lawmakers who broke from the NRA's policies.
  • Gun control groups eclipsed the NRA in political spending for the first time during the 2018 midterms.

The big picture: The NRA's woes come as gun sales in the United States are soaring, sparked by fears over civil unrest relating to the coronavirus pandemic and a national reckoning around race relations.

  • In July, the FBI said that background checks, a proxy metric for gun sales in the U.S., hit an all-time high.
  • But the sentiment around guns in the country has changed in recent years amid more mass shooting events.
  • Today, a majority of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, per Pew Research Center. In the past 10 years, a growing percentage of Americans say that the laws governing the sale of firearms in the U.S. should be made stricter, according to a survey from Gallup conducted over the past 30 years.

The bottom line: "You know, there was a time, truthfully when ... both Democrats and Republicans shied away from the issue of gun safety out of fear of the NRA. That's anything but the case today," Feinblatt said.

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2020 - Technology

Facebook says new pre-election political ad rules apply to boosted posts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facebook clarified Monday to Axios that its pre-Election Day ban on new political ads, going into effect Tuesday at midnight, applies to any political content with ad spend behind it — including boosted posts as well as ads created in Facebook's ad manager system.

Catch up quick: A boosted post is a regular Facebook post whose owner has paid Facebook to distribute it more widely. This approach is often used by smaller advertisers with less to spend.

Oct 27, 2020 - Technology

Tech battens down the hatches for Election Day chaos

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios


A week out from Election Day, online platforms are bracing for impact, making announcements and conducting internal tests to show they're ready for chaos.

Why it matters: The internet is guaranteed to be awash in misinformation and superheated rhetoric in the days before and after the election, and digital gatekeepers hope to avoid shouldering blame for "undermining democracy" as happened after 2016.

18 mins ago - Podcasts

How hospitals are prepping for the new COVID-19 surge

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging, particularly in areas that had been largely spared this spring. One big question now is whether hospitals are better prepared for this new wave, including if they'll be able to continue providing elective services.

Axios Re:Cap digs into what hospitals have, and what they still need, with Lloyd Dean, CEO of CommonSpirit Health, one of America's largest operators of hospitals and health clinics.