Florida has endured three horrific mass shootings in less than three years: Fifty were killed in June 2016 at Pulse nightclub, another five at the Fort Lauderdale airport in January 2017, and 17 more at Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February of this year. Yet despite all the bloodshed — and the pleas of the survivors — some candidates hoping to represent the Sunshine State in Congress have continued to pocket money from the National Rifle Association.
The most glaring of these is Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who has the distinction of being the only South Florida candidate to accept NRA cash after a gunman murdered teenagers in their classrooms last Valentine's Day.
On May 16, the NRA's Political Victory Fund donated $1,000 to the 15-year Republican congressman, who is being challenged this November by former judge Mary Barzee Flores in a tighter-than-expected battle. He cashed the check in June. New Times called him out on it in July, but federal disbursement data shows the NRA handed Diaz-Balart another $1,000 a month later, on August 30.
That brings Diaz-Balart's total NRA contributions this election cycle to $3,000 — the most of any congressional candidate from Florida. He's received a total of $32,002 from the organization over the course of his political career.
Tied with Diaz-Balart for the most NRA cash this election cycle is Republican Greg Steube, who's running to represent Florida's 17th District in Congress, which includes a large area of Central Florida from eastern Tampa Bay to the western shores of Lake Okeechobee. As a state senator, he suggested more guns as the solution to the airport shooting and pushed a slew of other insane bills, including one that would have punished the owner of a gun-free zone if someone was shot in it and another that would make it easier to claim self-defense under Stand Your Ground.
Steube, like Diaz-Balart, was happy to accept the gun group's money after the shootings of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The NRA gave him $2,000 on August 20 and another $1,000 on August 30.
Combined, Florida congressional hopefuls have raised $15,500 from the NRA this cycle. Other candidates who have taken the group's cash — all Republicans — are:
Incumbent GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Panhandle politician who received $2,500 on May 16. After the Parkland shooting, he tweeted that the NRA "is an organization that takes 100% of the blame for the conduct of 0% of its members," adding that he's proud of his A+ rating from the group.
Republican Mike Miller, a candidate for the Orlando-area 7th District, who got $2,000 on August 30. As a member of the state House, he voted against a motion to even debate regulating the sale and possession of semiautomatic rifles and extended magazines. The vote came a week after the Parkland shooting, as surviving students watched from the balcony.
Incumbent North Florida GOP Rep. Neal Dunn, who was given $1,000 on June 20, 2017, and another $1,000 on December 12, 2017. A life member of the NRA, he cosponsored 2017 legislation to make it easier to purchase gun suppressors.
Republican Michael Waltz, a candidate for Ron DeSantis' old seat, got $1,000 on August 30. The NRA urged its members to vote for the veteran and former Fox News contributor, writing in an email that he opposes universal background checks and will fight attempts by "George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, and the anti-gun elite" to implement their "radical gun control agenda."
Ross Spano, a GOP candidate for Florida's 15th Congressional District, received $1,000 on August 30. He was among Republican state lawmakers who voted against debating gun control measures as Parkland students sat in the audience. His bill declaring porn a public health emergency, however, passed that same day. (Despite his safety concerns about pornography, Spano's Twitter account once "liked" a porn tweet.)
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Incumbent GOP Rep. Ted Yoho, who represents the Gainesville area, was given $1,000 on May 16. He declares on his website, "Gun ownership is a birthright in America" and voted in favor of allowing veterans who are considered mentally incompetent to purchase firearms and ammunition, unless a judge determines they are a danger.
Incumbent Republican Rep. Brian Mast of the Treasure Coast got $1,000 on November 6, 2017. But he stands out from the other politicians on this list because after Parkland, the veteran and congressman formerly given an A grade by the NRA called for gun control measures including a ban on the sale of assault weapons like the AR-15. He said on MSNBC that if the NRA wanted its money back, it should "come to me and ask for it."
It should be noted that one member of Congress who isn't up for election this year, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, has garnered more than $3.3 million from the NRA and pro-gun groups, according to an analysis conducted by the New York Times.
Also, though the NRA avoids state races, it gave Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis $1,000 in the 2016 election cycle, when he was running for Congress, according to Orlando Weekly. Finally, there's some good news. Incumbent Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who received $2,500 in NRA cash during the last cycle — more than Diaz-Balart — doesn't show up on the NRA's books this time around.