By Trevor Aaronson
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Following the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, in which former student Nikolas Cruz murdered three faculty members and 14 students with an AR-15 assault rifle, the blame game started.

President Donald Trump, in a nationally televised address, blamed “the difficult issue of mental health.” Later, when the FBI disclosed that it had received a specific tip about Cruz that agents did not follow up on, President Trump blamed federal law enforcement for being too focused on its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election:

Aly Sheehy, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, took to the president’s favorite social media platform to call out his narcissism and his unwillingness to acknowledge that the current gun control laws in the United States did not prevent a troubled young man like Cruz from purchasing an assault rifle and murdering 17 defenseless people in a public school:

What’s remarkable was that Sheehy was one of many Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who have spoken up with a poise and political sophistication that betray their age. Throughout the weekend, Sheehy’s fellow students appeared on national news programs with an articulate, unified message — that elected officials, many influenced by the gun lobby, have refused to enact gun control laws that might have prevented Cruz from murdering their fellow students:

The context lost in these conversations is the vast amount of money the National Rifle Association spends for and against Florida’s Congressional delegates and how lopsided the distribution of this money has been.

In explaining this, many media organizations are counting only money that the NRA has given directly to candidates, such as this TIME story that noted only that Florida’s junior senator, Republican Marco Rubio, received $9,900 from the NRA for his re-election campaign in 2016.

What TIME and other media haven’t always noted is that the vast majority of NRA money goes to politicians from two NRA-funded political action committees (known as PACs) — National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and National Rifle Association of America Policy Victory Fund. Through these PACs, the NRA gives money directly to individual political campaigns and spends money for or against specific candidates through “independent expenditures” under federal campaign finance laws.

The money spent through these PACs dwarfs the money the NRA, as an organization, gives directly to candidates. For example, while the NRA gave $9,900 directly to Rubio for his 2016 Senate campaign, the NRA’s two PACs gave $927,719 to Rubio’s 2010 and 2016 Senate campaigns and $4,500 to his failed 2016 presidential bid in the form of contributions and so-called independent expenditures.

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By contrast, Florida’s senior senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, has not received any contributions from the NRA — but that doesn’t mean NRA money hasn’t affected him. In 2012, when Nelson last ran for re-election, the NRA’s two PACs spent more than $600,000 in advertisements against Nelson through independent expenditures.

In Florida, as in other states, the NRA spends disproportionately more money through its PACs on Republicans than it does on Democrats. Here’s what members of Florida’s congressional delegation had to say about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting contrasted with the amount of money NRA PACs have spent for or against each elected official, based on a Florida Center for Investigative Reporting review of Federal Election Commission campaign finance data:

Republican Senator Marco Rubio


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $932,219 to Rubio’s 2010 and 2016 Senate and 2016 presidential campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Democratic Senator Bill Nelson


The NRA’s PACs spent a total of $662,138 in independent expenditures against Nelson’s 2012 Senate campaign.

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, 1st Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $1,000 to Gaetz’s 2016 House campaign in the form of direct contributions.

Republican Representative Neal Dunn, 2nd Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $3,000 to Dunn’s 2016 and 2018 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions.

Republican Representative Ted Yoho, 3rd Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $4,093 to Yoho’s 2012, 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate. This was his most recent tweet as we published; he has not tweeted about the high school shooting.

Republican Representative John Rutherford, 4th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $1,000 to Rutherford’s 2016 House campaign in the form of direct contributions.

Democratic Representative Alfred Lawson, 5th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs spent a total of $93 in independent expenditures against Lawson’s campaign in 2012.

Republican Representative Ron DeSantis, 6th Congressional Distict


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $5,000 to DeSantis’ 2012, 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions.

Democratic Representative Stephanie Murphy, 7th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Murphy’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Republican Representative Bill Posey, 8th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $13,500 to Posey’s House campaigns in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 in the form of direct contributions. This was his most recent tweet as we published; he has not tweeted about the high school shooting.

Democratic Representative Darren Soto, 9th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Soto’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Democratic Representative Val Demings, 10th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs spent a total of $93 in independent expenditures against Demings’ campaign in 2016.

Republican Representative Daniel Webster, 11th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $34,542 to Webster’s 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Gus Bilirakis, 12th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $16,450 to Bilirakis’ 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions. This was his most recent tweet as we published; he has not tweeted about the high school shooting.

Democratic Representative Charlie Crist, 13th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $9,900 to Crist’s 1998 Republican Senate campaign in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate. The PACs did not contribute to Crist’s 2016 House campaign as a Democrat or his unsuccessful 2010 Senate campaign as a Republican-turned-independent.

Democratic Representative Kathy Castor, 14th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Castor’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Republican Representative Dennis Ross, 15th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $16,477 to Ross’ 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Vern Buchanan, 16th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $25,830 to Buchanan’s 2010 and 2012 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Tom Rooney, 17th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $10,500 to Rooney’s 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions.

Republican Representative Brian Mast, 18th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $30,656 to Mast’s 2016 and 2018 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Francis Rooney, 19th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Rooney’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Democratic Representative Alcee Hastings, 20th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $1,000 to Hastings’ 2000 House campaign in the form of direct contributions.

Democratic Representative Lois Frankel, 21st Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Frankel’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Democratic Representative Ted Deutch, 22nd Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Deutch’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 23rd Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Wasserman Schultz’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, 24th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs have not contributed to Wilson’s campaign and have not spent money in opposition.

Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, 25th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $31,999 to Diaz-Balart’s 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo, 26th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $40,867 to Curbelo’s 2014 and 2016 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions or independent expenditures on behalf of the candidate.

Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, 27th Congressional District


The NRA’s PACs gave a total of $2,000 to Ros-Lehtinen’s 2008 and 2012 House campaigns in the form of direct contributions.

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