(Emma Schwartz)
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As gun control debates raged in Congress early this year, the National Rifle Association increased its federal government lobbying expenditures to record levels, new filings with the U.S. Senate indicate.

The NRA and affiliated National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action together spent at least $800,000 lobbying the federal government during the first quarter — more than any year covering the same period, according to federal records.

Such aggressive advocacy preceded a major legislative victory Wednesday for gun advocates, as the U.S. Senate defeated a proposal to expand background checks on guy buyers.

And it came as gun control advocates — from President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the families of children killed last year in Newtown, Conn. — pressured lawmakers to pass laws limiting purchases of firearms.

The NRA groups’ first-quarter lobbying expenditures have been steadily increasing in recent years, but never cracked the $700,000 mark.

During the first three months of 2012, they spent $695,000. That follows $675,000 in 2011 and $615,000 in 2010.

This year, the NRA’s lobbying efforts were exclusively directed at the House and Senate, according to federal disclosures. The group lobbied on numerous U.S. House and Senate bills proposed by federal legislators.

Among them:

  • H.R. 751, the Protect America’s Schools Act of 2013
  • H.R. 274, the Mental Health First Act of 2013
  • H.R. 329, the Strengthening Background Checks Act of 2013
  • H.R. 575, the Second Amendment Protection Act of 2013
  • S. 54, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013
  • S. 374, the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2013
  • S. 146, the School and Campus Safety Enhancements Act of 2013
  • S. 174, the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013
  • S. 480, the NICS Reporting Improvement Act of 2013
  • H.R. 138 and S. 33, the Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act
  • H.R. 142 and S. 35, the Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2013
  • H.R. 437 and S. 150, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

The NRA itself spent $700,000 lobbying the federal government during the first quarter, federal records show. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive, was among 12 in-house NRA officials to lobby during the year’s first three months.

Several contract lobbying firms, including Crossroads Strategies, Prime Policy Group, FTI Government Affairs and Shockey Scofield Solutions, combined to spend at least another $100,000 lobbying on behalf of the NRA or National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action from January through March.

Companies, unions and special interest groups that lobby the federal government have until Monday to submit mandatory first quarter lobbying disclosure reports to Congress.

The NRA and its affiliate spent nearly $3 million on federal-level lobbying in 2012 — more than it has during any previous year, according to data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, but spending during this year’s first quarter puts it on pace to exceed that mark.

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