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Update: NRA affiliate’s low-interest loans to Marion Hammer are drawing national attention

Three stories in two weeks have raised questions about the personal finances of Florida’s powerful gun lobbyist.
Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. [News Service of Florida]
Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. [News Service of Florida] [ News Service of Florida ]
Published Sep. 7, 2019
Updated Sep. 8, 2019

Two weeks ago, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Florida’s powerful gun lobbyist, Marion Hammer, had received $300,000 from Unified Sportsmen of Florida, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association, in loans with an interest rate as low as 2 percent since 1995.

The revelation drew an instant rebuke from Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, who called for a legislative investigation. Coming so soon after the Florida Senate cleared Hammer of wrongdoing in a case that alleged she broke that chamber’s lobbying rules by not reporting her compensation for more than a decade, the odds of lawmakers following up seemed pretty low.

RELATED STORY: NRA Sway: For Florida officials, it’s always Hammer time

Then Dan Christensen of the Florida Bulldog dropped another explosive story: Hammer obtained several “apparently illegal loans over the years” from Unified Sportsmen of Florida, which she founded in 1975 and runs.

The most recent loan, Christensen wrote, came in 2017. It was for $200,000.

The problem is, Florida law prohibits non profits from loaning money to their directors. Hammer makes $110,000 as group’s executive director. None of the other board members of Unified Sportsmen of Florida were helpful in answering Christensen’s questions about why the loans were made to Hammer. Some of the responses, especially the one from John Malloy, are extraordinary. Seriously, read the story.

(UPDATE: On Saturday, Hammer alerted The Buzz that she and her attorneys, Richard E. Coates and Emmett Mitchell, IV, issued Christensen a cease-and-desist letter on Friday that asserted his story was “false and libelous” and demanded that the Bulldog stop further publication of “false and libelous statements concerning Ms. Hammer.” It’s not clear what specifically she claimed was false and libelous in his reporting, or if she sent similar notices to the Democrat or the Washington Post. Christensen posted a response on Facebook: “This is what media intimidation looks like.”)

And then, just a few hours later, Beth Reinhard and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post dropped their investigation into Hammer’s finances.

They found that Hammer had taken out loans of more than $250,000, at the super low rate of 2 percent. The loans were used to buy or help buy several properties in Tallahassee, “including one where a daughter resides and another where a granddaughter resides.”

Hammer told the Post what she’s told the Democrat: The loans came from her retirement account, not the nonprofit. Tax experts interviewed by the Post said the nonprofit’s tax filings were inconsistent with Hammer’s explanation.

This mounting scrutiny comes as Hammer must weather another session, which starts in January, where lawmakers find themselves under public pressure to pass tighter restrictions on guns.

Oh, and it’s an election year, too.