On the day of the big crime bill vote in the House, Alaska Republican Don Young got a $3,500 donation from one of his most loyal supporters - the National Rifle Association.
That same day last week, Young voted against allowing consideration of the bill, which the NRA has vehemently opposed because it contains a ban on assault-style weapons.The donation to Young was among tens of thousands of dollars the pro-gun group - long one of Washington's most effective lobbies - doled out in the final weeks before lawmakers cast deciding votes against consideration of the crime bill on Aug. 11.
Among the biggest beneficiaries of the NRA's largesse between June and early August were a handful of Democrats who abandoned President Clinton last week after voting for an earlier version of his crime bill that did not contain the gun provision, according to an Associated Press review of campaign reports.
Among them: Bart Stupak of Michigan ($1,950 from the NRA on June 27), Martin Lancaster of North Carolina ($2,500 on June 1), Charlie Wilson of Texas ($2,500 on June 29) and Bill Orton of Utah ($4,450 on June 28).
Orton denied changing his vote because of the NRA donation.
"My vote wasn't changed - the crime bill was changed. When I voted for the bill, it had less social spending, more enforcement, and no gun control," Orton said Thursday.
"You can support the Second Amendment right to bear arms based upon principle and not political pressure or special interest," he added.
A few Republicans who reversed course last week also were big beneficiaries, including Gary Franks of Connecticut, who got a $4,950 general election donation from the NRA's political action committee in June.
He was the lone member of the Connecticut congressional delegation to vote against bringing the bill to a House vote last week. He had voted for the April bill.
Most of the recipients of the NRA money likely would have voted against the bill anyway.
"Don's position on Second Amendment rights has always been clear. And if the donation was on the same day it was only coincidental," said Steve Hansen, a spokesman for Young's office.
Young has received more than $40,000 in NRA support over the last decade.
But the NRA donation pattern nonetheless provides a textbook example of how special interest politicking works - the group uses donations on the eves of important votes to remind lawmakers who support them.
An AP computer analysis of NRA contributions to the House since the start of the 1994 election cycle found the group gave nearly 88 percent of its $621,000 in donations to lawmakers who opposed the crime bill.
Those figures include nearly $60,000 in donations AP identified as coming in the weeks immediately before the vote.
The NRA has not filed its report for that period yet, but AP identified the donations by examining the campaign finance reports of dozens of congressman who filed with the Federal Election Commission over the past week.