Pro-gun control groups donate 6 times more cash to OR candidates than gun rights groups

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KATU has uncovered the biggest recipients of campaign cash on both sides of the gun issue in Oregon.

Using records from the Secretary of State's Office we looked at how much money gun-oriented political groups gave to candidates in 2016.

After compiling the numbers we discovered pro-gun control candidates received more than six times more money than pro-gun rights candidates on the issue.

Last year, the largest recipient of campaign cash from pro-gun rights groups in Oregon was Laura Morett. The Republican candidate for state representative and former "Survivor" reality show contestant received $10,132.86 total from the Oregon Firearms Federation and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Despite the infusion of cash, Morett was not successful in defeating state Rep. Paul Evans, D-Salem.

Coming in second on the pro-gun rights side was state Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer. He scored a total of $8,500 in donations in that category in 2016, including $1,000 from the NRA and $7,500 from the Oregon Firearms Federation.

"I don’t usually get a lot of support from the NRA as I am not a member nor endorse everything they do," Post told KATU via email. "I am a member of Oregon Firearms Federation and Gun Owners of America which are both grassroots-oriented groups."

State records going back to 2008 show Post received one donation from the NRA in September of 2016.

Rounding out the top five on the pro-gun rights side are Republican state representative candidate Patti Milne with $7,347.42, GOP state senate candidate Dick Anderson with $5,992.65 and William "Bud" Pierce, the former Republican candidate for governor, with $4,123.14.

To see the top 10 recipients of campaign cash from pro-gun rights groups in 2016, click here.

"They believe strongly in their right to bear arms as do I," Val Hoyle, a former Democratic state representative and secretary of state candidate, told KATU.

She was the number one recipient of campaign cash on the pro-gun control side in 2016.

"Anybody that knows me knows that nobody's gonna buy my vote," Hoyle, who's from Lane County, explained.

In 2015, as state House majority leader she co-sponsored a bill requiring background checks to include private sales of firearms, which was signed into law.

"And it was hard," Hoyle said, "in spite of death threats, in spite of violent threats, in spite of people coming to my door."

Hoyle, who received $500 in donations from the NRA as a state representative, stepped down from her position as majority leader to run for secretary of state last year.

She lost in the primaries but not before receiving a whopping $260 thousand in donations from pro-gun control groups, including $250 thousand from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire and outspoken gun control advocate.

"To be clear," Hoyle said, "running for secretary of state I had no ability to vote on or influence gun safety regulations."

She did not run for reelection as a state representative in 2016 but held that office until January of this year.

Coming in second on the pro-gun control side was Gov. Kate Brown, D-Oregon.

Like Hoyle, she also received $250 thousand from Bloomberg, drawing the criticism of conservatives like Kevin Hoar, the spokesman for Oregon's Republican Party.

"It's an attempt to engineer things from afar by elite billionaires who themselves have plenty of armed security to make sure that they aren't exposed to the dangers that the rest of us out here are," Hoar said.

Rounding out the top five in the pro-gun control category are candidates whose gun-oriented donations came primarily from Everytown for Gun Safety, a group co-founded by Bloomberg. The organization gave State Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, $15,000. Independent state representative candidate Jim Thompson and Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese received $5,000 each.

To see the top 10 recipients of campaign cash from pro-gun control groups in 2016, click here.

"I live in a working-class neighborhood in Eugene, Oregon. I don't have any armed security," Hoyle said. "This isn't about the right to bear arms. This is about keeping people that shouldn't have firearms from getting firearms."

Hoar said new gun laws most often punish law-abiding citizens.

A spokesman for Bloomberg said in 2016 that Hoyle's sponsorship of the background check law prompted his donation.

But Hoyle and Thomas Wheatley, a senior adviser for Brown, said Bloomberg is known for advocating for a number of issues.

"I wouldn't characterize him as a single-issue contributor focused solely on gun violence prevention," Wheatley said via email. "His philanthropic and political giving also address environment, public health, education and other topics."

Bloomberg Philanthropies did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Hoyle is currently running for labor commissioner in Oregon against Jack Howard, a Democratic Union County commissioner. Voters will get to cast ballots in that race in May.

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