Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, has previously unreported ties to Daniel Defense, which made weapons used in killing 21 people in Uvalde, TX, last week and in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre that killed 60 people.
As the Albany Times-Union reported on Friday, Stefanik’s husband works for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which aggressively lobbies for pro-gun policies and donates to pro-gun politicians. Daniel Defense’s controversial founder and CEO Marvin “Marty” Daniel has had ties to the NSSF for years and early last year was elected to its board.
Details are scarce about the work done by Stefanik’s husband, Matthew Manda. The two have a history of failing to disclose their marriage in the course of joint promotional efforts. The NSSF even refused to tell the Times-Union how long Manda has worked for the NSSF, calling that “personal information.”
Under the law, however, congressional spousal employment is public information. And disclosure forms filed by Stefanik show that Manda was working for the NSSF as early as 2020. And both the NSSF and Daniel have been generous donors to Stefanik.
Next Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform is holding a hearing on how Daniel Defense and other companies market the weapons used in mass shootings. Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) wrote to Daniel and other gunmakers, seeking information beforehand. One thing Maloney asks is how much Daniel Defense gives to the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NSSF was not mentioned.
But Daniel has an extensive history with the NSSF, which is headquartered in Newtown, CT, site of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Unlike the NRA, the NSSF typically maintains a low public profile.
But the NSSF has been a generous supporter of Stefanik and of the Republicans who elevated her to lead the House Republican Conference after Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) was ousted last year for insufficient loyalty to both former Pres. Donald Trump and House Min. Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
From 2014 through 2019, the NSSF gave Stefanik a total of $8500. Since her husband started working there, the NSSF has given her $10,000. On May 14, 2021, the day Stefanik became GOP Conference chair, the NSSF wrote her a check for $5000 for her primary, although she did not yet have any challengers.
The NSSF and Stefanik have also promoted each other without disclosing their mutual conflict of interest. Over two days early this April, the NSSF’s annual “Fly-In” event hosted 35 members of Congress in Washington. Stefanik was there, briefing gunmakers on House legislation, according to an NSSF article written by Manda that cited her “efforts in leading the conference” and “her enthusiasm” but did not disclose their marriage.
On her 2020 campaign website, Stefanik posted an NSSF article under the category “In the News.” The story said that Stefanik and another member of Congress had participated in an NSSF town hall.
The article, which consistently praised the two representatives, describing them as “staunch defenders of the Second Amendment,” quoted Stefanik discussing the need for Congress to reduce “infringements” on guns. Neither the article nor Stefanik’s campaign website disclosed that the author, Manda, was her husband.
How much the NSSF pays Manda remains a secret. Members of Congress are not required to disclose spousal salaries. NSSF tax filings for 2020 aren’t yet public, but its 2019 filing shows that the 11 highest-paid employees each earned between $198,523 and $656,689, including bonuses and other compensation.
(It’s not clear precisely when Manda joined the NSSF. Stefanik’s disclosure forms list another firm, GovPredict, as his employer in 2019, and the NSSF as his employer in 2020. The earliest public indication of him working at NSSF is an April 29, 2020, article. According to the Campaign Legal Center, if Manda made more than $1000 from the NSSF in 2019 or from GovPredict in 2020, Stefanik was obliged to disclose it. Neither she nor the NSSF responded to TYT's questions.)
The NSSF has also supported the two men most responsible for Stefanik’s ascent. In the five years after McCarthy became the House Republican leader in 2014, the NSSF gave him and his political action committees $35,000. The NSSF has given McCarthy the same amount in the three years since Manda started at the NSSF.
Similarly, McCarthy deputy Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), himself a victim of gun violence, has also benefited from increased NSSF largesse in recent years. Already this year, Scalise campaign and political action committees have gotten $15,000 from the NSSF, more than any other year.
Some of the checks the NSSF wrote came as House Republicans were weighing who might replace Cheney as their conference chair. On Feb. 24, 2021, the NSSF gave the Scalise Leadership Fund $10,000. Another $10,000 went to the McCarthy Victory Fund on Mar. 26, 2021.
The following month, McCarthy for the first time publicly dropped his support for Cheney. By May 4, 2021, McCarthy was ready to remove Cheney. Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) were already reportedly backing Stefanik to replace her. Scalise backed Stefanik publicly the next day. Both Jordan and Reschenthaler had gotten NSSF donations before, and each got a check the following month. (Jordan and other recipients of gun-industry donations sit on the committee that will hold next week’s hearing on guns.)
The NSSF doesn’t disclose its donors, and there’s no public indication of whether Manda or Daniel have influenced its political giving (Daniel also did not respond to a request for comment). And there is considerable evidence that the NSSF is simply increasing its political donations broadly.
In fact, while the NRA was the top pro-gun group giving to candidates in the 2020 election cycle, the NSSF in this election cycle has eclipsed the NRA. So far in the 2022 elections, the NSSF has written checks for $312,368, almost all of it to Republicans. (The few Democratic exceptions include conservative Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR).)
The NSSF is also a major backer of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, to which Stefanik belongs and which Daniel also supports. In 2019, the most recent year for which tax filings are available, the NSSF gave the foundation $135,750.
It’s not clear when Daniel first became involved with the NSSF. An archived version of his 2015 Assets for Christ charity webpage lists the NSSF as one of the gun groups with which Daniel had gained “considerable notoriety.”
That appears to be a reference to his 2013 attempt to purchase a pro-gun ad during the Super Bowl. NSSF executive Larry Keane saluted Daniel and his company for that effort in a December 2013 opinion piece.
Daniel began donating to the NSSF in 2015, writing checks that year for $550. As his company grew, so did his donations.
His involvement in the NSSF gave Daniel access to members of Congress. At the NSSF’s 2017 “Fly-In,” Daniels suggested he had been attending for a while, calling it “the best organized…to date.” A number of Republican congressional leaders, including Scalise, attended, and Daniels said he “was able to meet with 11 members…three of which were senators.”
All told, Daniel and his wife have given the NSSF $36,550. Of that total, $20,000 has come since April 2021, shortly after Daniel joined the NSSF board, on Feb. 3, 2021.
Marvin and Cindy Daniels are devout Christians. Their belief in gun rights is based on their interpretation of the Bible. A Daniel Defense Tweet shortly before the Uvalde shooting pictured a young child with a weapon along with the Biblical passage: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Both the Daniels have been active with their own Christian charity, Assets for Christ. Recoil magazine refers to Marvin as “a God-fearing man.” The same profile describes his wife Cindy laughing about personally cutting off people’s water service:
“A taskmaster and meticulous organizer, the COO of Daniel Defense runs a tight ship, just like she did as a spunky 10-year-old meter reader. 'When I was 10 years old, I worked for the plumbing company in Pooler and would go cut peoples’ water off if they didn’t pay their bills,' Cindy says, chuckling as she recalls her first job.”
In its statement online about the Uvalde shooting, the NSSF said it was “deeply appreciative of the law enforement officers who responded without regard to their own safety to stop this murderer.” It’s not clear who wrote the statement, but Manda has been publicly identified as NSSF’s manager of public affairs.
Asked about passing new gun laws in the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings, Stefanik on Tuesday said, "I do not support gun control."