Editor’s note: After publication, British oil giant BP — which had been identified in an earlier version of this story as a co-host of this event — responded to an earlier Rolling Stone request for comment. “BP supports a number of organizations, including the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. However, the company was not a sponsor of this event at the Republican National Convention,” said a spokesperson for the company. At least two days prior to, and on the day of, the event, BP’s name and logo were included in a list of “co-host sponsors” of the shoot-out on the invitation to the event on the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation website; by mid-morning Thursday, two days after the event, BP’s company’s name and logo were still listed there.
Added, July 22nd: The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation responded to Rolling Stone‘s earlier request for information. “The list of sponsors that were originally on the event webpage was pulled from an old invitation. We have since updated the webpage with the correct sponsorship information.” The invitation on the website was updated such that all sponsoring organizations and companies had been removed. As of early Friday morning, the page included a new list of sponsor organizations for the event. BP is the only original sponsor no longer listed, while additional organizations and companies were added.
Based on documents available online, it seems BP has sponsored similar events in the past. Photographs taken of the “Congressional Shoot-Out and Industry Challenge” in May 2015, published in the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation 2015 Year in Review report, show participants standing in front of a banner listing BP as a “title sponsor” with the NRA, among others. A photograph on the Remington Arms Company Facebook page from the same event in May 2014 shows a similar banner, with BP once again listed as “title sponsor.” As of late morning July 22nd, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation listed BP as a “title sponsor” for the upcoming “August Recess Shoot-Out” for “Congressional staff” and others, also in Glendale. By noon Friday, however, all sponsors for that event had been removed from the website.
Below is an updated version of this story.
You’d think few groups would want to be associated with an event that combines the phrases “Republican National Convention” and “shoot-out” in Cleveland, but, as with so many aspects of this week’s convention that defy understanding, you’d be wrong.
It turns out the National Rifle Association, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Winchester guns, Bridgestone tires and 13 smaller companies and organizations, decided to do just that, hosting the “Republican National Convention Shoot-Out,” AKA the “Stars and Stripes Shoot-Out,” near Cleveland Tuesday. The event came as the nation continues to reel from a number of recent high-profile tragedies: eight police officers killed by gun, three shootings of black men by cops, the Orlando massacre and a wave of terror attacks around the world.
“Take a break from the convention and join us on the range for a friendly shooting competition,” the event invitation reads. “In addition to a chance to get outdoors and appreciate the Midwestern landscape, we will have the opportunity to discuss policy priorities to protect and advance the interests of America’s sportsmen and women.”
Photographs of the event posted on Instagram by event co-host Crossman Corporation show several Republican politicians in attendance, holding weapons: Ohio Rep. Bob Latta, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman.
The weapon of choice in the photos is the $999 Pioneer Airbow, made by Crossman, “an all-new category of big game weapon featuring full length arrows and full weight broadheads.” It’s propelled by 3,000 psi of compressed air, “giving shooters an expanded kill range.”
Tuesday’s event was held at the Hill ‘n Dale, a private hunting club about 45 minutes outside Cleveland. General Manager Shawn Spindel tells Rolling Stone that upwards of 200 people attended the event, with “a lot of industry people” joining the GOP politicians.
The main activity was an outdoor competition, with shooters moving through woods and over fields using 12-gauge shotguns to hit 78 moving clay targets. The competition was “primarily for bragging rights and a small trophy,” Spindel says. Side events allowed industry folks to share their wears: airbows, cross bows and guns with silencers. While Spindel regularly hosts corporate events, with the RNC group, “there was a little bit of extra glitter, if you know what I mean.” All in all, it was “a great day,” he says, with “a lot of fun had by all.”
Participants left around 3:00 in the afternoon.
Prostaffer @chiphunnicutt (in red) instructs Mark “Oz” Geist, #American hero, member of the Annex Security Team that fought the Battle of Benghazi and co-author of 13 Hours, on how to operate the revolutionary Pioneer #Airbow from Benjamin. Oz then gives everyone a shooting lesson. #Merica #sportsmenfor2016 #RNCinCLE
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has numerous corporate Council Members listed in its 2015 year-end report (p. 27-28), including fossil-fuel giants BP, Exxon, Shell, Duke Energy, Noble Energy and Koch Companies.
This fossil-fuels-and-guns combination continued at the Republican convention. If the combo seems odd, recall the rich relationship of wars for oil with BP and Shell’s activities highlighted this month in the Chilcot Iraq War Report.
Though you would hardly know it by watching, day two of the RNC was themed “Make America Work Again.” Few concrete policies or proposals for jobs or economic development were offered, though Kerry Woolard, general manager of Trump Winery, seemed to imply that the entire nation has a solid future ahead as happy Trump employees.
But the handful of policies and jobs that were discussed were largely related to guns and fossil fuels.
The NRA’s Chris Cox offered a whole-hearted defense of the Second Amendment after warning young mothers at home with their babies to be terrified for their lives, and deriding the nation’s police officers for their miserable response times.
Dan Sullivan, the junior Senator from Alaska, called for putting “coal miners and oil drillers back to work.” As her delegation cheerily waved black and yellow “Trump Digs Coal” placards, West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito demanded the revival of the coal industry, to put “60,000 coal workers who have lost their jobs” back to work.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, an unapologetically devout oil-industry stalwart from Kern County, California, then made the non-ironic pitch that what differentiates Republicans from Democrats is “putting your interests above the special interests.” The oil and gas industry is one of McCarthy’s leading funders, providing $953,000 since 2005. Sullivan has received nearly $400,000 from oil and gas since just 2013. The mining sector – i.e., coal – has contributed almost $900,000 to Capito’s campaigns since 1999.
The day began with protesters scaling flag polls next to the host hotels, about half a mile from the convention center, successfully unfurling a banner reading “Don’t Trump Our Communities: Ban Fracking, Tear Down the Wall, Stop Climate Injustice.” Their action had no particular corporate target until organizers learned of the “shoot-out.”
Reached at her home in Rayne, Louisiana, Cherri Foytlin, state director for Bold Louisiana, who has long fought BP for its role in the Gulf oil spill, was arrested with 185 others in Baton Rouge this month protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling. “I guess BP and the NRA might be called natural bedfellows,” she says. “If you look hard enough, you should be able to find their logos on the backs of gravestones up and down the Gulf Coast.”