Bringing A Super PAC To A Gun Fight

Michael Bloomberg is targeting Democrats who voted against gun control:

Senate Democrats up and down the caucus, from West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada, have been trying to warn Bloomberg off his strategy of running ads that attack vulnerable Democrats over gun control votes. And it’s not because they disagree with what Bloomberg is after—a new law to require background checks for guns bought online or at gun shows. Rather, they think keeping the Senate in Democratic hands in 2014 is more important than any single Senator’s vote on guns.

How Alec MacGillis understands Bloomberg’s actions:

What Bloomberg has embarked upon now is nothing less than the construction of a mirror image to the NRA. There is plenty of latent public support for gun control, his logic goes, but politicians only see a risk in voting for it. He wants to reverse that calculation.

To that end, Bloomberg created a Super PAC, Independence USA. In 2012, it spent $10 million on ads supporting pro-gun-control candidates running against NRA-friendly opponents in districts where polling suggested such a stance should be a liability. This investment was credited with unseating Democratic Representative Joe Baca of California. In the past year, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which now has 975 mayors, has expanded from 15 paid staff to more than 50, with lobbyists in Washington and field organizers around the country who will likely be deployed to states with legislative fights looming. The organization is also developing its own candidate rating system.

Above all, Bloomberg is planning to hit the airwaves on a scale Washington has not fully grasped. “He described his effort last year as putting his toe in the water,” says Wolfson. Bloomberg plans to spend heavily in the 2014 midterms to support Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and North Carolina’s Hagan, both of whom voted for background checks.11 And he plans to spend very heavily against the Democrats up for reelection who voted against the bill—Alaska’s Mark Begich and Arkansas’s Mark Pryor.