No matter how many mass shootings afflict the country, the GOP has largely refused to budge on even modest gun safety reforms. Texas’ Republican Senators are no exception, with Ted Cruz already lashing out at Democrats in the aftermath of shootings in Colorado and Georgia. Unsurprisingly, the GOP’s crusade against gun safety is financially backed by the NRA. But how much do Ted Cruz and John Cornyn receive from the NRA? The answer may surprise you.
According to data from Brady, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have received $176,274 and $78,945 respectively from the NRA. That’s not just in their most recent election cycles, that’s over their entire careers. To put that in perspective, neither senator is even in the top 20 and many of their colleagues have received millions from the NRA.
So why do Cruz and Cornyn, who both have 100 percent NRA ratings, receive such little money from the NRA? The answer can be found by looking at the senators who the NRA has contributed the most to.
At number one is Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has received over $13.6 million, almost twice as much as the runner-up. However, this data looks at their entire political careers and the bulk of this money likely comes from when Romney was the GOP presidential nominee.
A look at further down the list shows that the senators who have received the most money have generally come from states traditionally considered competitive. Second and fourth place go to Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis respectively, both of whom hail from North Carolina. North Carolina is a state that had a Democratic senator as recently as 2014, currently has a Democratic governor and voted for Barack Obama in 2008, so has long been seen as purple. Indeed, Tillis just won reelection in 2020 by less than 2 points, a race that was widely seen as a potential Democratic flip.
Going down the list reveals senators from other purple states (or at least states that used to be purple) like Florida, Colorado, and Ohio. There are some senators in the top ten who are from red states: Roy Blunt of Missouri, Todd Young of Indiana, and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. But all three of those states have elected Democratic senators within the last fifteen years so they could still be considered somewhat competitive at the senate level.
It makes sense that the NRA, or any political organization, would focus its money on competitive races. Obviously you want to focus on helping senators who might actually lose to a Democrat. Furthermore, senators in swing states might be more tempted to compromise with the Democrats on gun isssues in the hopes of appealing to swing voters and a big donation from the NRA can dissuade that.
Up until recently, Texas just wasn’t considered a swing state. After all, Democrats have not won a statewide race in decades. While Texas has been trending blue, this is a pretty recent phenomenon. So it’s likely that the NRA didn’t feel that incumbent senators from Texas actually needed the money. And given how much Texas Republicans love their guns, Cruz and Cornyn have plenty of incentive to vote against gun reforms even without much NRA money.
What about the 2018 Texas senate election? Surely Beto O’Rourke would have made the NRA sweat about losing a loyal ally and prompted them to spend heavily on propping up Ted Cruz. The thing is that 2018 ended up being a lot closer than expected. While O’Rourke did come within three points of Cruz, the polling average indicated that Cruz was leading by nearly seven points. So the NRA might not have considered Cruz to be in much danger in 2018, and their money was sorely needed in the House where Republicans actually did end up losing. However, given how narrow Cruz’s victory was in 2018 and given the damage to his reputation he’s endured since then, we could see a lot of NRA campaign contributions should Cruz run again in 2024 (he may forgo reelection in hopes of the White House). The NRA has not had much reason to worry about Texas in the past, but that’s quickly changing.