Mar 13, 2018, 6:50 PM ET

NRA drops last-minute money for GOP candidate into Pennsylvania special election

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The National Rifle Association has engaged in an under-the-radar spending campaign for Republican candidate Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s Tuesday special election.

It is the only federal political spending the pro-gun group has reported since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., according to FEC reports.

The NRA spent $7,868 in support of Saccone but the money wasn’t seen in a high-profile venture like TV ads or get-out-the-vote efforts. Most of it - $7,532 - was spent on mailings scheduled to be distributed in the district on Monday. The remaining $336 was spent on phone banking earlier this month, according to campaign finance filings.

PHOTO: Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone meets with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pa. Saccone is running for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone meets with supporters at the VFW Post 4793 while campaigning on March 5, 2018 in Waynesburg, Pa. Saccone is running for the vacated seat of Congressman Tim Murphy against Conor Lamb.

The group confirmed the existence of the mailer to ABC News but declined to describe it or where it was sent in the 18th Congressional District. The NRA has endorsed Saccone, who has an A+ rating from the group, and has donated $2,450 to his campaign.

And it isn't the only spending entity making this an issue in the race.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a pro-Republican super PAC, also has highlighted the issue, which is in the national spotlight after Florida passed new school safety rules and President Donald Trump laid out his support for legislation currently being considered by Congress, which includes improving background checks and providing grants to states for anti-school-violence plans.

The campaign tactics also come as Republicans go all-in for this special election contest in a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016 and won’t exist in the November election because of redistricting.

Democrat Conor Lamb has run a strong race, putting a seat in play for the party where it should not be competitive. And the national GOP has already started the post-election night spin, talking down Saccone as a bad candidate who couldn’t fund-raise or campaign properly.

For both sides the stakes are high. If Lamb wins, Democrats will claim their candidates can run and win anywhere in the country – even ruby-red Trump districts - which will boost their odds in retaking control of the House this fall. If Saccone wins, Republicans will argue they can keep the House even with the president’s low approval ratings and the consistent flow of chaos and controversies that come out of the Trump White House.

Money has poured into the contest.

PHOTO: Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvanias 18th district, and the audience recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally with United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), March 11, 2018, in Waynesburg, Penn.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Conor Lamb, Democratic Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania's 18th district, and the audience recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign rally with United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), March 11, 2018, in Waynesburg, Penn.

Lamb raised more than $3.6 million since January, compared to Saccone's haul of just under $1 million over the same time period, according to FEC data.

Outside groups have made up for Saccone’s abysmal fundraising numbers. The GOP nominee has been helped by more than $10.6 million in spending from super PACs and outside groups.

Pro-Lamb outside groups have spent about $1.7 million.

Gun rights are a big issue in this red district, which contains parts of rural south-western Pennsylvania, where hunting is a huge tradition.

Lamb has emphasized his support for Second Amendment rights. His first campaign ad, a “bio” ad to introduce himself to voters, included a photo of him shooting a rifle.

And, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, Lamb called for tougher background checks but not stricter gun laws.

Additionally, at a rally on Sunday, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts called Lamb a "God-fearing, union-supporting, gun-owning Democrat.”

The CLF mailer, ironically, highlights that record. The flyer, obtained by ABC News, reads: “THANK YOU CONOR LAMB FOR OPPOSING GUN RESTRICTIONS.”

PHOTO: Rick Saccone waves while President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at the Atlantic Aviation Hanger on March 10, 2018 in Moon Township, Pa.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Rick Saccone waves while President Donald Trump speaks to supporters at the Atlantic Aviation Hanger on March 10, 2018 in Moon Township, Pa.

But the recipients were Democrats in Allegheny County, likely in hopes of suppressing turnout among the more liberal Democrats who live in the Pittsburgh suburbs that make up that part of the district; a group of voters that supports more restrictions on guns.

“Our job is to make sure voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th District know where Conor Lamb stands on important issues of the day. This mailer was sent to voters who might find his views on the Second Amendment of note,” said CLF spokeswoman Courtney Alexander in a statement.

Lara Putnam, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said that part of the 18th Congressional District is more liberal and more likely to favor gun control.

“If it’s going to the northern part of the district is probably says Conor Lamb supports guns and it’s trying to get the sort of suburban progressive Democrats in the northern part of the district to stay home,” Putnam, who lives just outside the district and has canvassed for Lamb, told ABC News.

But the rest of the district is composed of more rural areas that strongly support gun rights, including parts of Washington, Greene, and Westmoreland Counties.

In addition to the last-minute mailers, Saccone on Monday brought in Donald Trump Jr. to campaign for him. On Saturday Trump was in the district. Lamb spent the weekend highlighting his support from unions.

Polls close at 8 p.m. EDT in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. Please check ABCNews.com for election results.

ABC News’ Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

WATCH LIVE TONIGHT: You can watch livestreaming coverage of Pennsylvania’s special election as part of ABC News’ “18 for 18” coverage of the midterm elections starting at 8 p.m. ET on ABCNews.com or on the ABC News app available on the Apple App Store, GooglePlay Store, Apple TV App Store, and Roku Channel Store. Don’t forget to sign up for Midterm Elections Alerts to get more coverage of this year’s election season as par from our powerhouse politics team.

News - NRA drops last-minute money for GOP candidate into Pennsylvania special election

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CComments

  • concernedvoter

    A majority of American Voters are no longer buying Dirty Donalds Snake Oil.. They've seen him at work and definitely do not like what they see. A President who is by all appearances owned by the Russian Oligarchs. A President who has no morals or Character. Who is the Coward we all believed him to be from his early days as a 5 time Draft Dodger.. Dirty Don must be removed from the White house along with his Crime Family to save our Great Country and all these Sellout GOP Traitors.

  • Tim

    YAY!! Maybe wasting that amount of money on a losing candidate will help deplete their coffers and provide for even LES divisive, hate generated rampant gun-owning advocacy. WE DON'T ALL NEED GUNS !!

  • John Smith

    How many rubles did they invest in PA? They may have to go back to Putin for more money-lots more money.

  • Joei

    LOL!

  • kritikosman

    They wasted that. #ohwell

  • disqus_7Qw73LfCUQ

    Support from Trump and the NRA is the kiss of death for any Republican running for election!

  • P-dizzle

    PA may lead the way in rejecting Trump and his master, the NRA

  • xThatxSamexDudex

    Why this news? They do it anywhere there's an election. I got one in the mail for AL's.

  • Robin

    this should tell you all you need to know about the GOP.

  • alapaha

    Please let me add, guns is not a republican or democrat issue; it is America!! and I am overwhelmed with sorrow for the mass killings of our children. My heart will not and cannot bear the pain!!

  • briteleaf

    Here is where the GUN CORPORATIONS make payment to the politicians who they OWN. The NRA lobbyists are waving checks again for the hungry political campaigns of the Republicans THAT THEY OWN.

  • tj

    Ahh yes, blood money, lying, cheating, stealing, only the best of the worst underhanded means that Republicans know how to win. No one's surprised, not really.

  • GarfieldRocks

    If I were a republican, I wouldn't want Donald campaigning for me.

  • John Smith

    If you buy illegal drugs you are supporting Narco-Terrorist's. If you pay dues to the NRA you also support Domestic Terrorism. The second amendment does not give the NRA the right to exist nor the right to terrorize American children. Become part of the solution and not the problem. Stop supporting the NRA.

  • 7iThor

    I “love” how to be elected in this country you have to have a picture taken shooting a gun, and wear a flag pin on your lapel. Ridiculous.

  • LEROY WASHINGTON

    SACCONE ALL THE WAY! TRUMP IS WINNING, TRUMP SUPPORTERS ARE WINNING! GOD BLESS AMERICA, TRUMP 2020

  • Hank R

    I can find no source that proves the NRA knowingly funneled Russian money. Would love to learn of any source that does.

  • Jack25

    Well of course the NRA is getting involved. They are on a high knowing they can control Trump.

  • John Smith

    More foreign interference by the National Russian Association. Boy Putin and his psychoanalyst sure had Trump, the Republicans and the deplorables figured out. Easy Pickens!

  • whitepine

    Where does the NRA get it's money?

  • CantStoptheSignalM

    ... And that's how Russian funds are being pumped into local elections.

  • Major Bollocks

    Be interesting if you could tell just how much milking Parkland to undercut the NRA's funding might influence the upcoming elections versus just backlash in general over Trump and his policies. Would say you could use preliminary polling data leading up to the election but as we saw with the last election polling data isn't nearly as accurate as some would hope.

  • Bob Hillard

    Democrats only message is that they hate Trump and will say anything or do anything to take him down. They dont care about America, they would rather bring in millions of illegals over protecting our own Americans. All anyone is to Democrats is a vote, the only reason they want illegals. This Lamb guy is just as fake as the rest of the Democrats, tell you one thing and do another. They are a joke to watch and have their followers believe every new lie or scandal they create weekly about Trump and create more division in our country. Lamb says he likes guns, for now and if he won, he will join the rest of the gun grabbers. Stop believing the lies from Democrats. Main stream media is just another arm of the Democratic party, the real collusion!

  • inonepeice

    You would think that buying a membership to the NRA would be about giving money towards gun safety courses not buying an election...

  • McDo

    Realclearpolitics shows Saccone still leads in Gravis polls but
    dropping from 12 points in Jan to only 3 in March and in two other recent polls Lamb actually leads.

    Monmouth 3/8 - 3/11 372 LV 5.1 51 45 Lamb +6
    Gravis 3/1 - 3/5 911 LV 3.3 42 45 Saccone +3
    Emerson 3/1 - 3/3 474 LV 4.8 48 45 Lamb +3
    Gravis 2/13 - 2/15 602 LV 4.2 40 46 Saccone +6
    Monmouth 2/12 - 2/14 320 LV 5.5 46 49 Saccone +3
    Gravis 1/3 - 1/5 513 LV 4.3 34 46 Saccone +12