Two states struggling with gun violence this fall, Wisconsin and Michigan, also have been targeted for campaign expenditures by the National Rifle Association.
The big gun rights group appears to have its biggest political footprint in Wisconsin, where a gunman on Sunday shot seven women — three fatally — before killing himself in state's second mass shooting this year. Of the $5.9 millon the NRA Political Victory Fund, has spent so far to defeat President Barack Obama, at least some has gone to Wisconsin. While the Federal Election Commission does not require independent expenditure groups to identify which states they are targeting in the general election, a new Sunlight tool that tracks political TV ad buys, Political Ad Sleuth, reveals that the NRA has been running anti-Obama ads in Milwaukee, where Sunday's shootings took place.
Milwaukee is the only Wisconsin market where TV stations are required to report political ad buys to the Federal Communications Commission, so its possible that the NRA has been making similar buys in other areas of the state.
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states considered tossups in the presidential contest.
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The NRA is also active in the contest for the state's Senate seat, which became open when veteran Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl announced he would retire at the end of this year. It's one of the most competitive Senate races in the country and the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action has dropped $160,000 to help elect former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson — most of it last week, in the form of a $143,000 mailing.
Meanwhile the NRA Political Victory Fund has reported spending $164,000 in opposition to Thompson's Democratic opponent for the Senate seat, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.
On his campaign website Monday, Thompson bannered a statement saying that his "thoughts and prayers" are with the victims of Sunday's shooting. Elsewhere on the same site, he touts his "A" rating from the NRA.
The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action is also spending to help reelect freshmen Republican congressmen in both Wisconsin and Michigan. In Wisconsin, the Institute for Legislative Action has spent $34,000 to help Rep. Sean Duffy and $25,000 for Rep. Reid Ribble. The Institute has contributed $33,000 to the reelection of Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan, where authorities are hunting for a sniper who is randomly taking aim at motorists.
Earlier this year, after a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said it "wasn't . . . about guns. Elected in 2010, Johnson received $1.3 million from the NRA, Sunlight reported at the time.