I know that when you say an event is "non-political," the first thing that would pop into your head is...the National Rifle Association!. Other than the fact that the NRA is frequently named as the most influential lobbyist outfit on Capitol Hill and has its hands not just on all things gun-related but also everything else from campaign-finance reform to health care, this icon of the gun lobby doesn't have a political bone in its body, right?
Well, at least we'll see if they can keep it non-politically real, since the NRA is the latest group to come out full force behind the charity-funded-but-Glenn-Beck-organized "Restoring Honor" rally that is slated to be held near the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech at the foot of the D.C. monument.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence first reported today that the newest copy of its news magazine called "America's 1st Freedom" arrives wrapped in an ad for the rally with large photos of Palin and (a weirdly grey and haggard-looking) Beck and stating: "Support our Special Ops Warriors with Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the NRA!"
The Brady folks were quick to point out a certain irony in the NRA taking center stage near the monument to Abraham Lincoln, and on such a special date in the life of Martin Luther King, since both men were felled by the bullets of assassins. Wrote Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign:
Most jarring is the sad irony of all of these people at the podium, with their supporters spread across our National Mall, celebrating, in part, their worship of guns, while invoking, quite blatantly, the legacies of two great Americans whose magnificent lives were cruelly cut short by bullets.
And as you hold that image in your mind, consider the words of Dr. King, who, while mourning with all Americans the loss of President John F. Kennedy to gun violence, suggested: "While the question 'Who killed President Kennedy?' is important, the question 'What killed him?' is more important. Our late President was assassinated by a morally inclement climate. It is a climate filled with heavy torrents of false accusation, jostling winds of hatred and raging storms of violence. It is climate where men cannot disagree without being disagreeable, and where they express dissent through violence and murder."
Helmke brings up some good points, but his disclosure that the NRA is more involved in the 8/28 rally than previously known raises some other new questions about Beck's use of a well-regarded charity, the Special Operations Warrior Fund, as a vehicle to pick up a tab for the event, which the Fox News Channel host has estimated at roughly $2 million.
He has claimed the tab will be paid by a $1 million personal donation, and $1 million in citizen donations that will be passed though SOWF (although, interestingly, any checks are to be mailed to the address of Beck's company, Mercury Radio Arts). Above that, any donations will go to the worthy cause that SOWF was actually created for, scholarships for children of soldiers injured or killed in combat. Federal tax laws require that an event funded through such a charity be non-political, which may be a challenge given the involvement of Beck -- the darling of the Tea Party movement, Palin -- who may be running for president in 2012 -- and others like right-wing rocker Ted Nugent, a loose cannon who could say anything up there.
A recent article by Politico's right-wing beat reporter Ken Vogel suggested that -- even if the likes of Beck, Palin, Nugent or any NRA reps manage to make it through the three-hour event uttering nary a political word, as their lawyers have no doubt advised them -- the "Restoring Honor" is merely the bait for a long weekend that will be devoted to electing conservatives in November.
-- The political group Tea Parry Patriots is not only promoting the Beck-led rally but will be providing 400 volunteers, as required in order to gain a permit from the National Parks Service. It will be asking the Beck attendees to stick around to for a rally aimed at repealing heath care reform on the next day, Aug. 29.
-- FreedomWorks, a big-business-funded political lobby that supports the Tea Party and has become a major sponsor of the Glenn Beck Program in recent months, is holding both a fundraiser as well as a get-out-the-vote training session the night before the rally.
-- Two GOP members of Congress -- Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Orrin Hatch -- joined Beck recently in Utah to raise money for SOWF and its sponsorship of the Beck rally.
Now the NRA support seems to be the icing on the cake -- a gooey cake of politics wrapped around a non-political core, in a fundraising scheme that is raising new questions every day.