Innovation Showcase 2013 / Katie Akagi, Jefferson Mok, Barrett Sheridan
The NRA Network
Katie Akagi/@katieakagi, Jefferson Mok, Barrett Sheridan
This project attempts to unravel the complex web of the NRA’s influence. Through data visualizations and written stories, we show how the NRA operates through “soft power” channels. Almost everyday, we hear of the NRA’s success as a political lobby, yet a close analysis of the NRA’s political spending in recent years reveals a different story. In fact, the NRA’s leverage extends far below the national level and, true its beginnings as a grassroots organization, is effective in more local spheres. Tapping into the vast world of publicly accessible data, we look at the NRA in three key ways:
A) We chart how the NRA spends its money through a network of tax-exempt affiliates and where much of that money ends up.
B) We take a closer look to test at political spending and election outcomes to explore the current perception that the NRA is a political lobbying juggernaut. What we find is that rather than succeeding in the political arena, the NRA might derive its considerable influence from local communities through its grant-making foundation.
C) We use data and financial records to supplement existing knowledge about Wayne Lapierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and its public face for the last two decades.
We hope that this project will add nuance to a typically polarizing topic by employing data to tell a more complete story of the NRA, a key actor in the ongoing debate about gun violence in America.