Tim Michels’ campaign says mailer promoting NRA endorsement was an ‘error’

Gun Rights

MOUNT PLEASANT – Republican candidate for governor Tim Michels sent out a campaign mailer to potential voters in recent days promoting an endorsement from the National Rifle Association that Michels does not have — an error Michels characterized as a “big technicality.”

Michels’ campaign mailer included a photo of Michels in blaze orange with a freshly harvested buck and said Michels was “standing up for our gun rights.” At the bottom of the campaign flyer, it promoted the endorsement coveted by all Republican candidates.

In an interview after a rally Michels held in Mount Pleasant Monday evening, Michels said he did not know the mailer said he was endorsed by the NRA and characterized the situation as a technicality between the lobbying arm of the NRA and the group’s political action committee, suggesting he had been endorsed by one arm but not the other. Michels has not been endorsed by any arm of the NRA. 

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“I have received the highest rating that the NRA gives to a candidate … So, it’s some technicality between the NRA-ILA and the NRA-PFV,” Michels said, referring to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action and the group’s Political Victory Fund.

“It’s something that probably 1/10th of 1 percent of gun owners understand,” Michels said. “People are tired of this political gotcha game. People are tired of you know: Oh, you were endorsed by the NRA-PFV but not by the NRA. Nobody cares. I’m not going to let the lawyers run my campaign. We made a mistake, we’re moving on.”

The NRA’s Political Victory Fund is a political action committee that endorses candidates. Michels’ mailer said he was endorsed by the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, the lobbying arm. He has not been endorsed by either arm of the NRA, a spokesman for the group confirmed late Monday. 

Earlier Monday, an adviser to Michels campaign also confirmed the endorsement did not exist and said the error in the mailer “was unintentional and it has been immediately corrected for all future communications.”

“As a lifetime NRA member, hunter, and staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, Tim received the highest rating possible for a non-elected official. Our direct mail shouldn’t have indicated that rating was an ‘endorsement,’ and subsequent communications will describe his ‘AQ rating’ from the NRA,” Chris Walker, adviser to Michels, said in a statement. “Too many people and shady organizations have been lying about him and his position on issues, it’s imperative that we set the record straight.”

In response to the mailer, NRA officials sent a statement to their Wisconsin members to clarify Michels had not been endorsed.

“Misrepresenting our ratings or our position in any election contest does a disservice to you and all our members, as well as other gun owners to whom protection of their liberty and firearm freedoms is a factor in how they vote,” the NRA wrote in a statement posted on their website

Michels received an AQ rating from the NRA, which is the highest rating a candidate without a voting record can receive. Republican primary opponents Rebecca Kleefisch and Tim Ramthun each received a rating of A. 

Kleefisch’s campaign manager Charles Nichols in a statement accused Michels of lying to voters intentionally. 

“Tim Michels was caught lying to Wisconsin voters, and now he’s desperately trying to cover his tracks,” Nichols said.

In response to Nichols, Walker said “the campaign made an error, admitted it, and corrected it. That’s what proper executive leaders do.”

“However, it’s a new week and the insider career politicians just can’t help themselves, taking every opportunity to play gotcha politics,” he said.  

Contact Molly Beck and Corri Hess at molly.beck@jrn.com and chess@gannett.com. Follow on Twitter at @MollyBeck and @CorriHess.

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