Bloomberg Puts Millions Behind Gun Control Push | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Bloomberg Puts Millions Behind Gun Control Push

Play associated audio

Congress faces a battle over gun laws that could be the biggest in a generation.

Leading the charge for gun rights is the National Rifle Association, with its huge budget and grass-roots operations. On the other side, a new leader has emerged in recent years: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not only outspoken on gun control, he has also opened his substantial wallet for the cause.

President Obama, who has proposed big changes in federal gun laws, mentioned them only obliquely in his inaugural speech Monday. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one of the groups Bloomberg backs, isn't speaking so softly.

"Newtown broke America's heart, and everything is different since then," John Feinblatt, chief policy adviser to Bloomberg, said last week. He was on Capitol Hill barely a month after 20 elementary school students were shot to death in Newtown, Conn.

And how much will Bloomberg spend on this fight?

"The mayor will do what it takes to save lives," Feinblatt said.

That could be a lot of money.

The NRA's annual budget surpasses $200 million — and it's only the biggest of many pro-gun groups. On the other hand, Bloomberg is a billionaire 25 times over, according to Forbes magazine.

That puts Bloomberg a few notches below conservative industrialist David Koch and his brother Charles, and a few steps above liberal financier George Soros.

"People like the Kochs, Mayor Bloomberg and many others have learned that success in the public arena depends on using multiple avenues," says Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor of public affairs and philanthropic studies at Indiana University.

Here, Bloomberg is using two avenues: The first is Mayors Against Illegal Guns, where he's a co-chairman and the biggest funder.

In 2009, Mayors Against Illegal Guns helped engineer a rare defeat in Congress for the NRA. The Senate rejected a proposal that would have made states honor concealed-carry permits from other states.

The NRA unleashed its grass-roots network on some of the mayors who are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

In a 2009 video, NRA spokeswoman Rachel Parsons told the American Trigger Sports Network: "We've seen a great decrease in the membership of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This is great news."

But the mayors group has now nearly doubled; it claims more than 800 members.

Bloomberg's other avenue of political influence? He's the only funder of the superPAC Independence USA PAC, started last year. The PAC got started late in the election cycle, spent a relatively puny $8 million, and still helped several pro-gun-control candidates win.

Democrat Joe Baca, a vulnerable pro-gun incumbent in Southern California, was knocked from office by a $3 million ad blitz from Bloomberg.

Baca didn't take it well.

"Mayor Michael Bloomberg should be ashamed of himself, for lowering himself to the level of dirty politics by his operatives," he said.

The NRA didn't respond Tuesday to a request for comment about Bloomberg and his tactics.

This winter, Bloomberg's tactics will include a Web video featuring Beyonce, Jamie Foxx and 51 other entertainment artists, listing recent mass shootings and asking, "How many more?"

Perhaps more to the point for Congress, Mayors Against Illegal Guns is organizing waves of lobbying visits to Capitol Hill from mayors, police chiefs and survivors of gun violence.

And behind that, there's the prospect of midterm campaign spending by Bloomberg.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Mexican TV Icon Roberto Gómez Bolaños Dies At 85

The actor, writer and director was a staple of Mexican television comedies and children's programs for decades.
NPR

From Humble Salt To Fancy Freezing: How To Up Your Cocktail Game

You don't need to have liquid nitrogen at your next cocktail party — but it's certainly a sure-fire way to impress your guests. Expert mixologist Dave Arnold walks you through it.
NPR

Week In Politics: Hagel's Resignation, Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and Brookings Institution and David Brooks of the New York Times about the grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson and the resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
NPR

Millennial Doctors May Be More Tech-Savvy, But Is That Better?

Text messages from your doctor are just the start. Millennials are the next generation of doctors and they're not afraid to say "chillax" in a consultation or check Twitter to find medical research.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.