Bloomberg Finances Gun-Control Ad in Virginia Race
Hoping to make a splash in the Virginia governor’s race, Mr. Bloomberg showed up here Monday to unveil a new commercial criticizing former Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, the presumptive Republican nominee, who is a strong gun-rights supporter.
Mr. Bloomberg was joined about a dozen people, including survivors of the Virginia Tech shootings, their relatives, and Tatyana Timoshenko, the mother of Police Offcer Russel Timoshenko, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 2007.
The 30-second ad — timed to coincide with the second anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, on April 16 — features Omar Samaha, whose sister, Reema, was one of the 32 people who died. Mr. Samaha calls for Virginia lawmakers to close what he argues is a gun-show loophole that allows private sellers to sell guns without background checks.
And in blunt language, the ad goes after Mr. McDonnell. “Bob McDonnell wants to keep this loophole again,” Mr. Samaha says. “I know closing the loophole won’t bring Reema back, but the question is: Whose sister is next?” The ad concludes by saying, “Ask Bob McDonnell why he’s protecting criminals instead of protecting us.”
Even though Mr. Bloomberg’s name is not mentioned, he is clearly the driving force. The ad is being financed by a group called Americans United for Safe Streets, a political action committee based in Washington that received $502,335 in contributions in 2008. Of that amount, $500,000 came from Mr. Bloomberg, and of the group’s 12 contributors, 9 are from New York City, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
You could say that Mr. Bloomberg — an independent who wants to run as a Republican, an independent, and just about any other political party that will have him — is doing his best to shore up his liberal credentials. Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg has even recorded robocalls in recent weeks vouching for President Obama”s health care proposal.
But Mr. Bloomberg has also never been shy when it comes to endorsing politicians around the country who share similar anti-gun views. He did it last year in New Jersey, to take just one example, when he supported Dennis Shulman, a Democrat from Bergen County, against Representative Scott Garrett. (Mr. Shulman lost.) He did it in Virginia in 2007, too, when he supported State Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, a moderate Republican, against J. Chapman Petersen, a gun-rights Democrat. (She lost, too.)
Then again, Mr. Bloomberg’s relationship with Mr. McDonnell should be placed in another category altogether.
In Dec. 2006, Mr. Bloomberg announced that the city had filed a federal lawsuit against 27 gun dealers in five states, including several in Virginia. Mr. McDonnell did not take kindly to that, saying that Mr. Bloomberg had no jurisdiction. The conflict escalated to where Mr. McDonnell threatened felony charges against Mr. Bloomberg and any New York City law enforcement agents who tried to purchase guns undercover.
But this time, of course, what makes the tête-à-tête involving Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. McDonnell more compelling is that they are involved in two of the three most high-profile races in November (the New Jersey governor’s race being the other).
Already, Mr. McDonnell has another New York City mayor in his camp: former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Bloomberg. On Mr. McDonnell’s Web site, there is a video of Mr. Giuliani praising Mr. McDonnell’s background and integrity.
“Thats the kind of leadership that we need, not only in Virginia, but we need it throughout the country,” Mr. Giuliani says, while standing next to Mr. McDonnell in what appears to be a hotel or conference center. “So I’m a big supporter of Bob’s, and I’m going to do everything I can to get you elected.”
When asked to comment, the McDonnell campaign first described Mr. Bloomberg’s actions as an “attack,” but then refrained from naming Mr. Bloomberg in an official statement. Instead, Phil Cox, Mr. McDonnell’s campaign manager, talked about the Virginia Tech shootings in personal terms, saying that he met with a number of victims’ families, and that “he will never forget their suffering, and their pain.”
Mr. Cox continued by touting Mr. McDonnell’s efforts, working with Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, to tighten gun laws and improve the state’s mental health system.
Mr. Bloomberg insisted that his tiff with Mr. McDonnell was not personal. In fact, he said that his ad should not be construed as an endorsement for or against him in the fall. But he suggested that Mr. McDonnell needed to, well, grow up a little.
“I’d love to tell you that I remembered those things about Bob McDonnell; I did not. But all is forgiven if you do what’s right. I understand people say things, and as they mature and get more information, hopefully they’re intelligent enough to assess that information, include it in decisions.”
Whether the ad will actually have any impact remains to be seen. After all, gun groups still loathe Mr. Bloomberg: the Virginia Citizens Defense League even staged an event called the “Bloomberg Gun Giveaway” in May 2007, in which members were encouraged to talk about their efforts to fight the lawsuits, and two guns were offered as door prizes.
In addition, none of the three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor have spoken out strongly about the issue. And C. Richard Cranwell, chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, and Ward Armstrong, the House minority leader, oppose any legislation to tighten the so-called “gun show” loophole.
“If national gun control groups are waiting for Virginia to lead the way in their cause, they are going to have a long wait,” said Larry J. Sabato, a professor of political science at the University of Virginia. “The state has moderated on many issues, but not guns, and there is a near-consensus in both parties against any kind of major, or even minor, gun control.”
Hey Virginia the Carpetbaggers are back!!!!!!
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