In Texas and beyond, many politicians receive mega donations from pro-gun supporters

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(NEW YORK) — Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who represent the state where an 18-year-old gunman carried out one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings last week, are among Congress’ top recipients of contributions from pro-gun donors, campaign finance records show.

Cruz, in particular, has taken in the most money from pro-gun individuals and groups of anyone in the current Congress, amassing $442,000 over the course of his career, according to an analysis of disclosure reports by the nonpartisan campaign finance research group OpenSecrets.

Cornyn ranks third among current U.S. senators and representatives, receiving a total of $340,000 in contributions from pro-gun donors over his career, after Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who has amassed $396,000, according to the analysis.

Direct contributions from pro-gun individuals and political action committees are limited to a relatively small amount each election cycle, compared to the millions of dollars that super PACs and various other unlimited-spending outside groups are allowed to spend in support of candidates independent of coordination with their campaigns. The National Rifle Association’s various outside spending committees, for example, spent more than $6 million supporting North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr against unsuccessful Democratic challenger Deborah Ross during the 2016 election cycle.

Still, direct contributions — although smaller in size — are an effective illustration of a candidate’s level of support from gun-rights advocates.

“Throughout his career, Sen. Cruz has passionately fought to protect families from criminals and defend Texans’ constitutional rights,” Cruz spokesperson Steve Guest told ABC News.

At the state level, the NRA and NRA Victory Fund have spent a total of $575,000 in local Texas elections since 2015, in both direct contributions to campaigns and independent ad spending in support of candidates, according to an analysis of state campaign disclosure reports by nonpartisan nonprofit Transparency USA, which tracks state-level political disclosures.

Campaign disclosure reports also show that executives of Daniel Defense, the maker of the assault weapon that the accused gunman allegedly used in last week’s shooting, have been major Republican donors over the last few years.

Between 2016 and 2020, the company’s president and CEO, Marvin Daniel, and his wife and COO, Cindy Daniel, together gave a total of $300,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars more to numerous other Republican campaigns and committees over the years, according to disclosure filings.

The two are also regular donors to the National Shooting Sports Foundation PAC, together giving the group a total of $20,000 so far in the 2022 election cycle.

In addition, on Jan. 6, 2021, the company made a $100,000 donation to the Gun Owners Action Fund super PAC, which was launched shortly after the 2020 election to provide an 11th-hour boost to then-Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Georgia Senate runoffs that month.

However, the super PAC’s treasurer, Nancy Watkins, told ABC News that the PAC refunded Daniel Defense’s $100,000 contribution “at the request of the donor” on May 10, 2022, and that the refund will be disclosed in July’s quarterly disclosure report to the Federal Election Commission, which covers April through June.

Watkins did not disclose why the donation was returned more than a year after it was made. Since the Georgia runoffs, the group has been largely dormant, according to its disclosure reports — not receiving significant donations or participating in political activities.

Representatives for Daniel Defense did not return ABC News’ request for comment.

In addition to Daniel Defense’s contribution, the Gun Owners Action Fund received donations from other gun manufacturers, including $100,000 from Sig Sauer in December 2020, and $10,000 from Luth-AR the following month. However the $100,000 donation from Sig Sauer was refunded in April, after the watchdog group Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint alleging the donation violated campaign finance law that prohibits federal contractors from making federal political contributions.

The super PAC was also heavily funded by ESAPAC, another super PAC that itself is funded by top GOP donors like the Ricketts family, Charles Schwab and Ken Griffith.

The emergence of new pro-gun PACs like the Gun Owners Action Fund comes as the National Rifle Association, the most high-profile gun rights group in the country, has been wracked by legal battles and threats of bankruptcy.

The NRA, which spent more than $56 million in super PAC and outside money during the 2016 election cycle — including spending more than $30 million to support Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton — has so far spent only $9,600 in outside spending for 2022 midterm candidates, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of FEC data — a notably low figure even at this early stage in the cycle.

NRA representatives did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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