Yes, There Are Still NRA Shills Among Congressional Democrats
Few are as blatant and tone deaf as John Barrow (New Dem/Blue Dog-GA), but there are Democrats firmly allied with the NRA in both the House and Senate. In fact, four of them in the Senate-- Mark Pryor (AR), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mark Begich (AK), and Max Baucus (MT)-- just got unpleasant wakeup calls on the issue from Michael Bloomberg. He sent the letter below to hundreds of top Democratic donors urging them to stop writing campaign checks to NRA shills-- particularly these NRA shills. Heitkamp doesn't face the voters for another 5 years and Baucus is finally retiring. But Begich and Pryor are in tough reelection races for 2014 and if donors cut them off, they could be in trouble, although a case has been made that in both Alaska and Arkansas, being seen as someone not liked by the mayor of New York City does a candidate more good than bad in a general election. Last week we saw how billionaire Democratic donor Kenneth Lerer announced he would withhold contributions from NRA Democrats-- and possibly help fund primary opponents against them.
By appealing to the Democrats’ financial base, Mr. Bloomberg is exploiting his relationships and prestige among wealthy New Yorkers to disrupt the flow of campaign money to key Democrats whose re-election next year will help determine whether the party retains control of the Senate. No state is more essential to the party’s fund-raising: Sitting Democratic senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $30.4 million from New York donors in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than in any other state.
...Mr. Bloomberg’s strategy creates a tricky situation for Senate Democrats. They do not wish to alienate the billionaire mayor, who has become increasingly aggressive and outspoken on the issue. But they say he should be more sympathetic, given that their party, with its fragile majority, has tried to take on the difficult subject of increasing restrictions on guns in the face of hostility from Republicans.
“What they are doing,” said one senior Democratic aide who, like many people interviewed for this article, declined to go on the record criticizing the mayor, “is increasing the likelihood of a 100 percent A-rated N.R.A. Republican being elected.”
For Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who was an architect of his party’s takeover of the Senate in 2006 and has aggressively built up the Democratic donor base in New York, and who is a close ally of the mayor, the notion that Mr. Bloomberg’s efforts could cost Democrats their majority is not an abstraction.
He praised the mayor’s effort, but added, “We should be mindful that pro-gun safety laws have a much better chance of passing under a Democratic Senate majority than a Republican one.”
Mr. Bloomberg’s idea to use his formidable resources against Senate Democrats was enough of a threat to the majority leader, Harry Reid, that he raised the issue with the mayor in Washington in February.
According to a person with direct knowledge of their conversation, Mr. Reid told the mayor that he thought any efforts to attack Democrats would be shortsighted, and could ultimately result in a Republican Senate majority.
“Do you think you’d be better served by Majority Leader McConnell?” Mr. Reid said, according to this person, referring to Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Mr. Bloomberg appears undeterred. In May, he financed a $350,000 blitz of tough television ads against Mr. Pryor, featuring the fatal shooting of a friend of the senator. Mr. Bloomberg said voters would reward the senators if they heeded the public-- which broadly favors background checks-- instead of the National Rifle Association and other groups opposed to the legislation.
“If Democrats want to keep control of the Senate, what I would suggest is that they have all of their members vote for things that the public wants,” he said in the interview. “And if they don’t do that, the voters should elect different senators who will listen to them. That’s what democracy is all about.”
If a background-check bill passes the Senate, Mr. Bloomberg said, he will seek to put similar pressure on the Republican-led House, including appeals to Republican donors in New York who favor more gun regulation. Some Senate Republicans have already found themselves targets of the mayor.
...Senators Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, and Pryor sided with the minority, reminding us of why so many people are angry at Congress. Astonishingly, the four Senators did this even as they ask New Yorkers, who contributed a significant share of the funding for their last election bids, to donate to them once again. Their votes were an affront to the nation. Make no mistake: loopholes at the federal level undermine our efforts to keep our streets safe.
By voting against background checks, these Senators told us they would rather bow down to a special interest group than support a common-sense measure to help law enforcement fight gun crime. Now you can tell these Senators: by voting against background checks, they voted against your values and your family’s safety. And until they show they will stop bowing to pressure from the gun lobby, you should not support them.
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