By Craig McDermott
A new website, Who is on the NRA Board?, from the the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, highlights backgrounds of the members of the Board of Directors.
Some of the names on the board are very familiar to the nation -
Grover Norquist, the anti-tax zealot/corporate lobbyist
Oliver North, one of the primary players in the Iran/Contra scandal
Ted Nugent, the "gonzo" 70s rock star and current "gonzo" radio talk show host
Tom Selleck, the famous actor
There are also a number of former and current politicians as well as former professional athletes, most of whom have fame of a more regional nature (though NBA Hall-of-Famer Karl Malone's fame is somewhat greater than "regional").
However, the majority of NRA board members have public profiles that a low or nonexistent outside of the gun culture. Still, they have an outsized influence on politics and legislation, especially in comparison to average citizens.
In many cases, they have more political influence than most of their more well-known colleagues - with the notable exception of Grover Norquist.
Here in Arizona, we have seen prime examples of that phenomenon in action.
- For instance, last year, wealthy businessman and NRA board member Owen "Buz" Mills is well-known as the owner of Gunsite Academy, a financially lucrative weapons training school near Prescott.
- Former NRA president and current board member Sandy Froman has been very active in certain circles, and, even after her term as NRA president, has frequently served as the face of the NRA when it needs to project a “softer” image.
In other words, while both Mills and Froman are low-profile, they do have some notoriety outside of the NRA.
The "big gun" for the NRA in Arizona, however, has received almost no public notice.
Board member Todd Rathner's low name recognition in Arizona belies his influence, particularly with the Arizona Legislature. He has helped turn the state's legislature into an ideological petri dish, promoting the passage of extreme gun "rights" laws and blocking the passage of common sense safety regulations.
Like Mills above, he has profited from promoting the NRA's ideology.
In addition owning and operating a company that sells safari hunting trips to Africa, Rathner is the owner and primary employee of a lobbying firm, Rathner and Associates. The name says "Associates," but according to the Arizona Secretary of State, Rathner is the only active employee of his company, in terms of lobbying activities.
His lobbying activities have included working for the NRA in pushing for the passage of 2009's SB1113, the infamous "guns in bars" bill (passed just in time to commemorate a 2009 NRA meeting in Phoenix).
This past session, he worked for Colt's Manufacturing to help pass SB1610, naming the Colt Single Action Army Revolver as the state firearm.
Rathner has such a low profile that the website doesn't include any "colorful" (read: "contoversial") quotes or activities for him the way that it does for most of the other board members, but that doesn't mean his views and actions aren't as extreme as the other members of the NRA board.
Witness his Twitter feed. Not something he uses frequently (19 tweets total), but what it lacks in volume, it more than makes up in "interesting."
He has used it to bring attention to an Arizona Republic article that covered how much influence that the gun lobby has in Arizona. Being a gun lobbyist, he seems rather pleased with that.
He has used it to criticize Tucson Unified School District over its ethnic studies program.
He has used it to spout other opinions that are, well, "interesting" -