By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
When is a registered lobbyist not a lobbyist? If powerful NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer gets her way, it’s when she says so.
Hammer has been the National Rifle Association’s Florida lobbyist since at least 2006, yet despite being paid handsomely – $270,000 last year alone – she hasn’t filed with the Florida Senate any of the quarterly compensation reports that lobbyists are required to file.
Florida Bulldog first reported that apparent lack of compliance in May. Later that month two state legislators – Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando – filed formal complaints with the State Ethics Commission and Senate and House oversight authorities seeking investigations.
Since then, the Florida Senate has flouted its own rules regarding how to conduct such an investigation, steering the matter for “review” to an obscure office under the Senate president that processes lobbyist registrations. The review is being handled by Office of Legislative Services General Counsel Audrey Moore, who has declined to comment on its status to a reporter.
Sen. Thurston, however, said this week that Moore told him that she spoke with Hammer and that Hammer “was indicating that she was a consultant and not a lobbyist” and therefore was not required to file lobbyist compensation reports.
Thurston said Hammer was asked to supply her contracts with the NRA, but that Hammer replied she did not have them. Moore told Thurston the NRA had until Aug. 14 to supply them. The NRA has asked for an extension to Aug. 23.
Asked for comment, Hammer declined. Moore told Thurston that Hammer, a past NRA president and current NRA board member, has offered to submit an affidavit regarding her consulting contracts with the NRA.
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer
Hammer is the NRA’s only registered lobbyist in Florida, where she is also registered to lobby for the NRA nonprofit affiliate, Unified Sportsmen of Florida.
Hammer’s 2018 compensation from the NRA was disclosed in an April 27 report listing various payments made to NRA board members and staff for “goods or service” that was handed out to NRA members at the association’s annual meeting in Indianapolis and obtained by Florida Bulldog.
“Ms. Marion Hammer, executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida, received $270,000 for consulting services and legislative lobbying in Florida,” says the report by the NRA secretary.
Another internal NRA report dated May 5, 2018 and presented to members at last year’s NRA annual gathering in Dallas, says Hammer was paid $134,000 in 2017 “for legislative lobbying in Florida.”
Other payments listed in NRA tax returns show that Hammer received $147,000 in 2014, $172,000 in 2015 and $206,000 in 2016. The total for the three years: $525,000. For each of those years, the NRA reported that Hammer worked an average of five hours per week. None of those payments was reported to state lobbyist regulators.
While Hammer is the registered lobbyist for both Unified Sportsmen and the NRA, she is an employee of Unified Sportsmen, where the group’s tax returns list her annual salary as $110,000. In contrast, the internal NRA report describes board member Hammer as a “consultant and legislative lobbyist.” Consultants are not employees.
Florida law requires lobbying firms, defined to include individual contract lobbyists like Hammer who are paid fees for their services, to register and file reports for each calendar quarter disclosing their total compensation from clients. The disclosures are not specific, but are made in various ranges, for example, from $50,000 to $99,999.
Employees who do in-house lobbying for their employer, as Hammer does for Unified Sportsmen, are generally not required to register or file compensation reports. Hammer, however, is registered to lobby for Unified Sportsmen.
Failure to file timely compensation reports can be assessed $50 per day per report for each late day, up to $5,000 per report.
Hammer is under scrutiny at a difficult time for the NRA and her political allies there, notably longtime executive director Wayne LaPierre.
In May, leaked internal NRA documents detailed allegations of improper spending by LaPierre, including about $14,000 to pay the rent for an apartment in Fairfax, VA, near NRA headquarters for NRA summer intern Megan Allen and nearly $275,000 on designer clothing and thousands more on luxury travel to The Bahamas and Europe.
The NRA and LaPierre have since shut down costly NRATV. Several board members have quit. And the NRA’s tax exempt status has come under investigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office.