NRA lobbyist cleared in FL Senate ethics probe

Marion Hammer, lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Photo via the Trace by Phil Coale

Marion Hammer, one of the most powerful gun lobbyists in the country, has been cleared by a legal arm of the Florida Senate in a case investigating her failure to file required financial compensation reports.

Two Democrats in the Legislature accused Hammer of failing to file a dozen years’ worth of quarterly lobbyist compensation reports, as required by state law.

State Sen. Perry Thurston from Broward County and Rep. Anna Eskamani from Orlando filed formal complaints with the State Ethics Commission and Senate and House oversight authorities seeking an investigation after the Florida Bulldog reported that Hammer, who reportedly made $270,000 last year, hadn’t filed any financial disclosure forms going back to 2006, something all lobbyists in Tallahassee are required to do.

But Hammer said she only “consults” with the National Rifle Association. The NRA funds its lobbying through payments to Hammer’s nonprofit organization, the United Sportsmen of Florida (USF). The report said that the available evidence confirmed that.

The report found that Hammer did act as a lobbyist for United Sportsmen of Florida, but Florida lobbying disclosure laws allow that because she is an employee with the organization, which means she does not have to list herself as a lobbyist for the group.

But the Joint Rules of the Florida Legislature require that lobbying firms and principals maintain compensation records for a minimum of four years, meaning she must amend her lobbying forms for the years between 2016-2019 to “reflect that representation was in association with USF.”

Eskamani and Thurston were concerned about the case early on, because they said Senate Rules were not being followed, which mandate that the Senate Rules Committee conduct the investigation. Instead, it was diverted to the Senate Office of Legislative Services, leading Thurston to remark that the process itself was “severely flawed.”

In a written statement, Republican Senate President Bill Galvano said that Office of Legislative Services General Counsel Audrey Moore, who conducted the investigation, has directed Hammer to correct her lobbyist registration information within 30 days, or she could be subject to fines at the rate of $50 per day.

“I have been advised by the Office of Legislative Services that these directives have been complied with; therefore, I consider this matter closed,” Galvano wrote.

The initial reports that Hammer did not list herself as a lobbyist for the NRA were stunning, since she has been nationally credited (or severely criticized) as being the most powerful person in Florida politics when it comes to gun laws.

A New Yorker magazine article from February of 2018 said she was “nearing four decades as the most influential gun lobbyist in the United States.”

“Her policies have elevated Florida’s gun owners to a uniquely privileged status, and made the public carrying of firearms a fact of daily life in the state,” reporter Mike Spies wrote.

On Twitter, Eskamani said the results were both “disappointed and expected.”

“Waiting to see the full report before further comment; but this is both disappointing & expected. Colleagues refuse to hold @NRAlobbyist Marion Hammer accountable — bucking the process of a select committee & opting for OLS, allowing Hammer to get away w/no repercussions,” she wrote.

In a written statement issued this afternoon, a disgusted Thurston said the ruling once again showed the power that Hammer and the NRA retain in Tallahassee.

“Had the Rules Committee followed this mandatory procedure, the people of Florida would have witnessed a much more transparent process, allowing both Republicans and Democrats to probe the facts, bring forward the evidence, and arrive at the appropriate conclusions,” he said. “Short-circuiting that obligation leaves in high doubt the findings that we are presented with today. The Office of Legislative Services had neither the jurisdiction nor the authority to compel the production of documents, or compel testimony under oath, both of which were critically needed to arrive at the truth.”

“The report issued today serves as a bitter reminded of the powerful grip Ms. Hammer and the NRA continue to maintain over the Republican-led Florida legislature.”

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here