State lawmaker calls Iowa Gun Owners group a 'scam'

Published: Apr. 7, 2017 at 11:23 PM CDT
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It's a “scam.” That's what an Iowa lawmaker called a well-known gun rights group, at the state capitol, Thursday.

Addressing the Iowa House following the debate on the recent gun bill, State Representative Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) gave the Des Moines-based Iowa Gun Owners group some impassioned criticism.

"Iowans are being lied to," said Windschitl while on the House floor. “The average individual citizen out there, that wants to see Second Amendment rights advance in the state, those are the people being lied to.”

Windschitl went on to call out Iowa Gun Owners for being a scam masquerading as a lobbying group. The Republican said Executive Director Aaron Dorr of Iowa Gun Owners has been taking money from members for years, but not actually doing any lobbying.

Windschitl said the group hadn't shown up to committee and subcommittee meetings-- nor had they spoken with lawmakers about the gun bill.

"Did anybody in this room, that is a legislator, raise your hand here today and say Aaron Dorr personally talked to me about this bill House File 517, which he is taking credit for?” asked Windschitl during his speech. “Anybody? Not a hand. Folks, you have been lied to."

Director Dorr disputed the lawmaker's claim, saying group representatives had attended committee meetings and votes for the gun bill. Dorr alleged that Windschitl might not have noticed.

“I'm not sure if Mr. Windschitl was in the bathroom getting his hair perfectly combed,” said Dorr in a phone interview, Friday.

KCRG-TV9 took a closer look at Iowa Gun Owners and found, despite the group calling itself “Iowa's only No-Compromise Gun Lobby," it hadn't actually registered as a lobbyist for the bill. What's more, it's not even registered as a lobbyist to the 2017 Iowa Legislature-- which is standard practice for most.

Director Dorr told TV9, despite not being registered, he still believes it’s fair to describe Iowa Gun Owners as a gun lobby.

"Oh, absolutely,” said Dorr. “We represent the members of our organization. That's what we do. Those members of our organization, they're the ones that lobby legislators with the information that we provide."

Dorr said the nonprofit started up in 2009 and now has more than 10,000 members. The group’s web page lists membership fees ranging from $35 to $500 dollars to join-- with promises of meeting lawmakers “one-on-one.”

"We're the voice of grassroots gun owners, who want to see pro-gun bills advance and see gun-control bills defeated,” said Dorr. “We have done that for a long time here in the state."

Tax documents from 2014 show Iowa Gun Owners made more than $293,000-- mostly from grants and contributions. All but about $13,000 was spent. The majority of the money went to list email fees, direct mail fees and postage.

There was no compensation listed for any employees, including Director Dorr, despite claiming he works 70 hours per week.

KCRG-TV9 asked Dorr about the amount of time he works for the group without payment. He called the question “hostile” and declined to answer, except through email. A TV9 email request asking Dorr for the same information wasn’t immediately returned.

This story will be updated when more information is available.