A watchdog group is complaining that votes by two Utah congressmen against outlawing assault weapons were influenced by heavy donations they receive from the National Rifle Association.
Common Cause said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has accepted $19,186 in the past five years from the NRA - the 11th most of any House member. It said Rep. Wayne Owens accepted $15,350.They were among those who voted earlier this month for an NRA-backed proposal to not outlaw domestically built assault weapons such as AK-47s or Uzis, which are illegal if imported from abroad. It passed 257-172.
Common Cause said 203 members who voted on the amendment had received NRA financial support, and 188 - or 93 percent - voted for the NRA position, including Owens and Hansen. Those 188 members had received $1.4 million in NRA financial support in the past five years.
Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer said, "This is just one more example of how our current campaign finance system has failed to curb the role special-influence money plays in our legislative process."
But Hansen and Owens disagree.
Hansen's press secretary, Rick Guldan, said, "Common Cause has the process backward. Jim doesn't vote against gun control because he gets money from the NRA. The NRA gives him money because he votes against gun control, and it wants to keep people like that in Congress."
Owens said, "I have always opposed federal gun control, and these (NRA) contributions follow rather than precede such votes."
He added, "I represent a state where hunting game is the largest participation sport. I've hunted all my life. This weekend will be the first time in years I will have missed the opening of the deer hunt. I also own three guns."