The National Rifle Association will use the House of Representatives vote on whether or not Attorney General Eric Holder is in contempt of Congress as a factor in evaluating candidates.
The move by the NRA puts pressure on Democrats in swing districts to support the contempt vote, or risk losing the support of the powerful pro-gun group.
Holder faces a contempt vote over his refusal to turn over some documents related to the gunwalking program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The “Fast and Furious” program was designed to stem the flow of guns into Mexico. The program, and similar programs under the George W. Bush administration, were designed to allow the ATF to track the flow of illegal arms from the United States to gun cartels in Mexico.
The ATF lost track of some weapons that moved into Mexico, and one of the weapons was used to kill a U.S. border agent, Brian Terry.
Holder has testified on the matter eight times, and has turned over thousands of documents, but has refused to turn over other documents related to the Department of Justice’s internal deliberations on the program. President Barack Obama has asserted that the documents are covered under executive privilege, which Congress has typically honored. Nevertheless, a congressional committee recommended that the House hold Holder in contempt.
Republicans have alleged dark conspiracies with regard to the program, claiming that the Obama administration hoped to use the program to build support for gun control. No evidence has emerged to indicate anything of the sort. A Fortune Magazine investigation showed that the ATF was hampered by lax gun laws in Arizona, and that the ATF had been unable to persuade prosecutors to pursue charges against people transferring guns to cartels.
“It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder,” the NRA said in a letter to representatives. “For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions.”
The NRA claimed that their support of the contempt hearing was not a “partisan decision,” however. They said they supported contempt hearing because of the Justice Department’s “obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.”
The NRA’s decision to use the contempt vote as part of its “score” of members of Congress forces several Democrats to choose between support of their party and the Obama administration, and the risk of losing NRA support that could be crucial to their re-election. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V. have already announced they will support the contempt vote.
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