By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Democratic state legislators filed formal complaints Thursday with the state and Senate and House oversight authorities seeking investigations into Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer’s failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees from the National Rifle Association.
Florida Bulldog reported May 14 that Hammer received $270,000 from the NRA last year for “consulting services and legislative lobbying in Florida” in the wake of the Parkland school massacre. She was paid another $134,000 in 2017 “for legislative lobbying services in Florida.” Neither of those payments, described in internal NRA documents, was disclosed on quarterly lobbyist compensation reports required to be filed by the legislature.
NRA tax returns show that Hammer also received $147,000 in 2014, $172,000 in 2015 and $206,000 in 2016. The 2014-2018 total: $929,000. None of it was reported to state lobbyist regulators, and in fact, while Hammer is a registered lobbyist in the capital she has not filed any compensation reports since at least 2007.
“Florida’s lobbying disclosure law was passed in 2005 to give citizens more insight into the forces driving the legislative process,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. “The National Rifle Association has had an outsized influence on the passage of pro-gun bills for more than two decades. Floridians have the right to know just how much money was driving that agenda, and why those payments were never disclosed.”
‘Community deserves to know’
“House District 47 is home to Pulse nightclub,” said Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando. “Our community deserves to know what influence the National Rifle Association has in our political process, and why the transparency lobbyists are required to follow appears to be missing.”
Thurston filed his sworn complaint with the Florida Senate and the state ethics commission. Eskamani’s sworn complaint was filed with the House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee. Each of those complaints cited numerous instances of Hammer’s lobbying to influence a variety of legislation, including matters such as concealed carry permits.
The Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School claimed 17 lives of students and faculty. The NRA paid Hammer $270,000 as surviving students were pushing for a ban on assault weapons.
In a press release announcing the complaints, it was noted that earlier this year Thurston had questioned whether the NRA may have, in part, been behind the push for controversial legislation allowing teachers to carry guns in the classroom.
“Unless someone makes an appearance at a committee hearing or in a lawmaker’s office, it’s hard to know with certainty who may be driving a particular bill,” said Thurston. “The disclosure law was meant to counter that uncertainty by providing greater transparency into the ‘who’s benefiting’ question. But in the NRA’s case, there is no money trail to follow.”
Hammer is the registered lobbyist for both the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida, where she serves at its $110,000-a-year executive director. The NRA describes Hammer as a board member and consultant. Consultants are not employees.
Florida law requires lobbying firms, defined to include individual contract lobbyists, to file reports for each calendar quarter disclosing their total compensation from clients. The disclosures are not specific, but are made in ranges.
Employees who do in-house lobbying for their employees, as Hammer does for Unified Sportsmen, are generally not required to file compensation reports. But contract lobbyists like the NRA’s Hammer who are paid fees for their services must register and disclose.