An examination of the 49 pro-NRA amicus briefs filed in Bruen, along with court and IRS filings, shows that over the last two decades, the NRA has given financial support to at least 12 of the groups and individuals who lobbied the court on its behalf. That’s nearly a quarter. Though a full accounting is impossible, some recipients collected several million dollars from the NRA during that period and before filing briefs in Bruen. Only one of those 12 briefs disclosed the connection, meaning that neither the justices nor the public were told that 11 of these ostensibly independent voices owed their livelihoods in part to the NRA, the interest group behind the case. In his majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas adopted many of the arguments and conclusions offered in the amicus briefs filed by these NRA-funded allies, including Hardy’s.
The amicus briefs in Bruen provide a window into the NRA’s long standing legal strategy — how the organization has spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few decades constructing an advocacy network of lawyers and institutions capable of identifying, supporting and advancing cases likely to weaken gun restrictions.
But the briefs also demonstrate the limits of current Supreme Court ethics rules. The court’s guidelines surrounding financial disclosure for amicus filers are ambiguous and can be read so narrowly that experts say it’s easy for organizations to skirt them. Without a stronger rule, warn advocates pushing to bolster court ethics guidelines, groups like the NRA are essentially able to lobby the Supreme Court while keeping their role hidden.
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