NRA Stays Mum On Whether It Will Ask Craig To Resign From Its Board

While forces on both sides of the political divide are pushing for Idaho Senator Larry Craig's resignation after Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police accused him of soliciting sex in a public toilet, there is no indication to date that the National Rifle Association will ask the Republican Senator to step down from its board of directors.

The NRA refused to respond to multiple requests over the past two days from the Huffington Post to comment on whether Craig would be asked to resign from the group's board. The senator is a NRA life member, and has served on its board since 1983.

But while the pro-Second Amendment membership organization declined to comment, the head of one of the gun lobby's chief opponents argued it had long been clear that Craig should not serve on the NRA's board.

"Our position has long been that it was a conflict of interest to be both on the NRA's board and serve as a US Senator pushing NRA's agenda," Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Huffington Post on Friday. "So I think our position is the same - he ought to resign from one or the other."

The NRA has offered heavy praise for Craig's legislative work in what it sees as defense of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In May 2006, the group's Institute for Legislative Action awarded Craig the Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award.

"We'd be here until the early morning hours if I told you everything that this freedom fighter has done for all of us over the years," said Chris W. Cox, the Institute's president, when he presented the award to Craig.

The Senator was particularly singled out after shepherding the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act through the Senate in 2005. Craig and the bill's supporters said the legislation protected gun manufacturers from certain frivolous and expensive lawsuits, but critics of the bill argued that it granted the entire American arms industry blanket immunity from legal action.

"Congress must take action before this industry, so vital to Americans of all stripes, including law enforcement and our men and women in the military, goes bankrupt and shuts down," the Idaho Republican wrote in a Feb. 2005 op-ed defending the bill.

On the Senate floor in July 2005, Craig showed he was ready to pull out all the stops in defending the legislation, even invoking the global war on terrorism in its defense.

"The very same companies that supply our troops in the war on terrorism, both abroad and here at home, are the targets of these reckless lawsuits that could force them to close their doors," he argued.

The NRA's Cox called the measure the group's "most important federal legislative victory in 20 years."

Ironically, if Craig resigns his Senate seat, the potential ethical jeopardy he has faced from serving as an NRA board member could be at an end.

Helmke's group filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee in 2004 alleging that Craig's membership on the NRA's board represented a conflict of interest in violation of Senate Ethics rules.

The complaint stated that he had "impermissibly acted in his capacity as a Senator to further the interests, including the financial interests, of an organization for which he serves as a member of the Board of Directors," by "attempting to carve out unique and unprecedented immunity from the civil justice system for the NRA, some of its members, and the rest of the gun industry."

The Brady Campaign president told the Huffington Post that as far as he knew, the Senate has never taken action on the complaint.

In his February 2005 op-ed, Craig deflected the conflict of interest allegations.

"The NRA is not a defendant in any lawsuit that would be affected by this legislation," he argued. "The NRA represents, and advocates on behalf of, individual firearms owners - not dealers or manufacturers. So they have no financial stake in the legislation."

While the ethics complaint pertaining to the NRA apparently has not advanced, the Ethics Committee is known to be investigating the senator's guilty plea for disorderly conduct related to the June sex solicitation allegations.

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