WASHINGTON: The National Rifle Association (NRA) has at last filled its top communications post, bringing the nearly year-old vacancy to an end.
Andrew Arulanandam, 34, formerly senior media liaison for the 4.3 million-member gun rights association, has been promoted to director of communications.
The coveted post puts him in charge of one of the largest war chests in the industry, as well as all the NRA's myriad advertising activities.
The man who formerly held the job, Bill Powers, now an EVP at The Mercury Group, left in August 2001. The NRA made it clear at the time that it wouldn't hurry to fill the post. A great deal of the group's public affairs work centers on elections, of which there were few in 2001.
Prior to coming to the NRA in 2000, Arulanandam handled federal government affairs for Idaho Finance and Housing. He is also a veteran of several state and federal Republican political campaigns.
As part of his new job, Arulanandam will be handling press for NRA president Charlton Heston.
In 2000, the NRA spent $100 million on communications efforts (including advertising) and is largely credited with having turned gun control into a virtual third-rail for American politicians. As the 2002 elections approach, Democrats openly concede they are downplaying their opposition to gun ownership based on the perceived damage it did to Al Gore's presidential bid.
In 2001, Fortune magazine proclaimed the NRA to be the most powerful lobbying force in DC, surpassing the AARP for the first time in three years. The group maintains a five-person public affairs staff and retains Powers' adopted firm, The Mercury Group, as agency of record.