Former Rep. Mike Hager bought NRA membership with campaign funds

n North Carolina at least two state legislators have used campaign donors’ money to buy guns, and others have campaign funds pay for memberships in the National Rifle Association.

Republican Rep. Larry Yarborough bought a pistol from a gun dealer in his hometown of Roxboro. He purchased it for himself but used his campaign donors’ money to pay the $447.25 bill.  Campaign funds can typically be used only for things related to seeking or holding office. Firearms don’t typically show up in these reports. Yarborough’s purchase is the only one listed under the category of “personal protection expense.”

“Yarborough can legally have the gun as long as he remains a politician, “said Pat Gannon, spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. “But since the weapon technically belongs to the campaign, he couldn’t legally keep it if he ever leaves political life. His options would include buying it from his campaign committee or donating it to another politician’s campaign committee.”

“The committee also could sell the gun at fair market value, with the proceeds going to the committee, or could donate the gun to a charity organization or give it to another committee as an in-kind contribution,” Gannon said.

 Gun for a raffle

In 2017, campaign finance records show that Greensboro Republican Sen. Trudy Wade spent $2,200 from her campaign on a shotgun that she raffled off at a fundraiser. It was a 28-gauge Browning shotgun that was one of the prizes at a raffle on Nov. 14, 2017. There are no legal questions about buying raffle prizes with campaign money – a long-established practice.

NRA memberships

Other North Carolina politicians have spent hundreds of dollars buying memberships in the National Rifle Association.

A campaign can legally pay for memberships, but only under certain circumstances. For example, it would almost certainly be illegal to buy a country club membership with campaign donations. But if it’s a membership in a group that the candidate could reasonably claim he or she joined as a result of holding or campaigning for office, the law does allow that.

  1. Rep. Julia Howard, a Forsyth County Republican, spent $60 from her campaign on an NRA membership last year and another $100 in 2014.
  2. Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Surry County spent $100 in 2017 from her campaign to buy an NRA membership.
  3. Also in 2014, Rep. Jonathan Jordan, a Republican from Ashe County, spent $125 from his campaign on an NRA membership. And in 2012,

    Contributed photo Mike Hager (left)

  4. Mike Hager, who was then a Republican representing Rutherford County and is now a lobbyist, spent $60 from his campaign on an NRA membership.

Several members of North Carolina’s delegation in the U.S. Congress have also spent campaign funds on NRA memberships, both while they were in Congress and also while they were in the state legislature.

  1. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Cornelius Republican, spent $70 from his campaign on an NRA membership in 2011 when he was the speaker of the state House.
  2. Current U.S. representative from North Carolina, Republican Virginia Foxx, used her campaign money in 2003 – when she was still in the state legislature – to buy a $25 NRA membership.
  3. Campaign finance records indicate the only Democrat to have recently purchased an NRA membership with campaign funds is Carson Snyder, who in 2016 paid for a $25 membership.

The National Rifle Association goes to great lengths to defend the right to bear arms. It is opposed to virtually every form of gun regulation, including restrictions on owning assault weapons, and retention of databases of gun purchases,