Bloomberg asking donors to cut off 4 Senate Democrats

Mayor Mike Bloomberg will send a personal letter to hundreds of the biggest Democratic donors in New York on Wednesday, urging them to cut off funding to the four Democratic senators who helped derail a major gun-control bill in April, according to The New York Times.

The effort marks a new phase in the aggressive gun-control effort from the New York City mayor. It includes millions of dollars spent on targeted TV and radio ads and, starting June 14, a planned 100-day bus tour run by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Bloomberg’s nonprofit advocacy group. It will take gun violence survivors and law enforcement officials to 25 states in an effort to pressure lawmakers into supporting stronger gun-control legislation.

In a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Post, Bloomberg wrote, "I am writing to ask you: next time these four Senators want you to support them with donations to their campaigns, tell them you cannot. Until they show that they will stand up for the American people and not the gun lobby, tell them you cannot support their candidacy."

In terms of the letter, “Mayor Bloomberg felt it was important to make New Yorkers aware of the votes that senators took in April against the Manchin-Toomey bill,” said Bloomberg’s chief policy adviser, John Feinblatt, on a press call on Wednesday morning. “The mayor is urging them to ask where [the senators] stand on common-sense gun laws.”

The Manchin-Toomey bill, named after its sponsors Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., would have expanded background checks on virtually all potential gun owners. Despite high-profile support from President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, the legislation failed in the Senate, 54-46.

The four Democrats who sided with Republicans in ending debate on the Senate bill are Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

With its substantial donor base, New York City plays an outsize role in funding national politics. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, these senators have altogether received more than $2 million in donations from the New York metropolitan area alone.

Some observers are critical of Bloomberg’s effort, saying it amounts to meddling in local affairs outside New York City.

“His recommendations are falling on deaf ears,” said Larry Pratt, executive director of the gun rights organization Gun Owners of America. “The senators who voted against the bill know better where their political interests lay than Bloomberg.”

Feinblatt, however, said, “When senators want to make this about Mayor Bloomberg, what they’re really trying to do is change the subject. They ought to stop the hypocrisy, because they clearly listen to New Yorkers when it’s time to scoop up donations.”

Bloomberg’s supporters say the criticisms miss the bigger picture.

“The difficulty in making progress on making gun laws has not been for lack of public support,” said Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Glaze, who stressed that he does not represent Bloomberg, added that if senators “can’t find a way to do what 90 percent of the public believe, they shouldn’t ask for their money.”

In a Washington Post-ABC News Poll released just weeks before the Manchin-Toomey vote, 90 percent of respondents did in fact state that they support expanded background checks on gun purchases.

However, a Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll released shortly after the Manchin-Toomey bill showed a markedly different reaction. While 47 percent of respondents described themselves as either angry or disappointed about the results, 39 percent said they were either happy or relieved.