Gun politics: are sands shifting?

Carla Axtman

As I was doing my Sunday political reading this morning, this caught my eye:

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire:

The Sacramento Bee looks at how Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA), a pro-gun lawmaker, was ousted after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $3.3 million on television and mail attacks against him -- three times the sum Baca and challenger Negrete McLeod (D) raised between them.

"By homing in on a loyal National Rifle Association politician, Bloomberg altered a long-standing element of American politics. Time was, a politician like Baca could cast pro-gun votes, receive NRA support and not worry about an attack from any moneyed interest that promoted gun control. No such group existed, at least not on the order of the NRA."

Said Bloomberg aide Howard Wolfson: "It sends a message: you can lose your seat by voting against prudent gun legislation. Hopefully, members will think twice before taking these votes. They can't just vote the NRA's way and assume they won't hear about it."

Now I suspect there's a worthwhile discussion to be had here about cash flowing into a race from an outside-the-state interest (a wealthy, well-connected Mike Bloomberg). But gun politics has been so highly dominated by the National Rifle Association that many candidates have been afraid to even discuss common sense gun regulation for fear of having a money dump against them by the NRA.

It's fascinating to me that some of the reliable GOP bread and butter canards are seemingly eroding in their effectiveness: marriage equality, abortion, communism/socialism, taxes and now gun control. Or perhaps the public is just boogeyman'd out.

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    Some reporting on Bloomberg's involvement in that race.

    Bloomberg — who is neither Democrat nor Republican, but an independent centrist — launched Independence USA PAC just 2 1/2 weeks before Election Day. His third term as New York mayor is winding down, and his focus is shifting to national politics, with education reform, marriage equality and gun control his core issues.

    Howard Wolfson, a longtime aide to Bloomberg who guided the superPAC, said they were looking for "the right race and the right set of circumstances."

    The first thing they wanted was a clear contrast between the candidates on an issue of real concern, such as guns. Wolfson said Baca, a Blue Dog Democrat, had gotten high ratings from the National Rifle Association.

    Another measure of the right race was one that wouldn't be on everybody's radar.

    "We deliberately chose a race that had not been targeted by others. We didn't want to be in the middle of a crowded field. We wanted to stand out," Wolfson said.

    And if the race was a sleeper, without much outside money, there probably wouldn't be much inside money, either. Wolfson said it meant that "we would have a big impact, based on our ability to go on television versus the candidates' inability to go on television, from a financial standpoint."

    Besides the high-priced TV buys, Independence USA PAC mailed fliers across the district that went after Baca on guns. The superPAC spent about $3.3 million on the race — nearly three times as much as both candidates combined.


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    The idea the NRA controls elections is a myth. This last election was a clear indication of this, since they spent $12 million and only got a 1% return on their investment. Naturally, the NRA is making excuses, blaming losses on "dim journalists," but people are learning the truth now. Read more here:

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    In terms of looking at out-of-state money pouring in, take a look at the AG race in Montana. In a state where the average AG race raises and spends UNDER $50k a cycle, and outside group dumped in $580k (!!!) in support of the Republican candidate who won by about 5points.

    What's different about Bloomberg money, one might suppose, is that he is trying to make an policy related statement.

    As a political fundraiser, however, it is tough for me to say I wouldn't take large, legal, ethical money from out of state in support of one of my candidates.

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      You would think if gun control was important to Bloomberg that would make it's way into the tv ad bought with his money. Also, how many campaigns to promote an issue do you know of that officially started two weeks before an election?

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    I worry that Bloomberg money will come to Portland and abolish my Big Gulps. Seriously. Save the Big Gulp!

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