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While universally unpopular, it does appear that we have entered a reality in which everyone has their own SuperPAC of some type. Some SuperPACs are egregiously partisan while others attempt to toe the line and focus on a single issue.
Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” clearly seems to be the latter rather than the former. Bloomberg, who is one of the most prominent pro-gun control politicians in the country, has clearly put his money where his mouth is when regarding the topic of guns in America. Bloomberg has intervened numerous times in various primaries, most notably, during the special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. that saw Robin Kelly elevated to Congress.
But while most would assume that Bloomberg would be bankrolling a de facto Democratic Party Super PAC, it appears that he is aggressively trying to toe a nonpartisan line. The news has recently broke that Mayors Against Illegal Guns is mulling running radio ads against Mark Pryor, the Democratic senator from Arkansas.
Now Pryor, who is up for re-election in 2014 in what appears to be one of the more competitive races on the docket, voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill that would require universal background checks on all firearm sales. Only three other Democrats joined Pryor in voting against the failed bill but given how red Arkansas has turned in the last decade; Pryor’s vote will probably not hurt him back at home.
Still targeting Pryor is interesting in in its own case. It’s no-risk, no-reward for the Bloomberg campaign. It’s a Democrat you can attack that is more likely to help than hurt him (Pryor can just say “A New Yorker can not tell us what’s right and wrong”) and Bloomberg can say that his Super PAC is still nonpartisan and focused on a single issue. It’s either win-win or lose-lose depending on your perspective.
But when you look at the idea of gun control nationally, will Bloomberg’s presence help or hurt the argument for those who are looking for effective gun control legislation?
There was a time where Bloomberg was likely considered a future national candidate, one who essentially ran on and began his mayoralty as a “Rockefeller Republican”. After succeeding the temperamental and “celebrity” mayoralty of Rudy Giuliani, Bloomberg was expected to be in the same mold but only A LOT wealthier. A pro-business and progressive on social issues mayoralty was expected to make Bloomberg rather popular in bright blue New York City.
Then his popularity began to wane not too long after he announced he would serve as an Independent rather than a Republican. He announced that he would extend the city term limits for Mayor from two terms to three terms, which reeked entirely of political opportunism. In fact, in the Republican wave year of 2010, Bloomberg barely eeked out City Comptroller by a margin of 50.7% to 46.3%. For comparisons sake, Bloomberg won in 2005 by almost 20%.
Bloomberg then quickly became someone who seemed overtly ambitious for his plans in his final term as Mayor. He drew the ire of many when he announced the so-called “soda ban” in an effort to curb childhood and adult obesity which was struck down by a state judge. Bloomberg was criticized for the various loopholes in the proposed law (including only applying the ban to soda, not towards other items such as milkshakes) and for the fact that he did not do a good job fighting for the ban which made him appear slightly amateur.
Yet with the soda ban and the extension of term limits, Bloomberg has remained fairly popular in the city with 50% of the citizens approving of his mayoralty. But nationally, Bloomberg’s appeal seems to be limited. Conservatives have bashed Bloomberg for the “soda ban” and for his advocacy against guns, proving that there really is no more room for Rockefeller Republicans in the 2013 edition of the Republican Party.
Still, is there anything people want more than a billionaire personally throwing his money around even if they agree with him? Universal background checks are universally approved of but it still could not pass due to fear of politicians losing their seats. If anything, Bloomberg becomes a huge target for the NRA (not like he or anyone else should care) but also, he becomes the face of the gun control movement.
Do liberals, progressives, moderates, conservatives, etc. like the idea of a soon-to-be-out-of-office multibillionaire spending his money on various statewide races? The unpopularity of Super PACs could bring down Bloomberg’s approval ratings as well but in effect, bring down the fight for gun control reforms.
The best bet moving forward may very well be for Bloomberg to combine with the Gabby Giffords group “Americans for Responsible Solutions” as opposed to heading his own matter. Bloomberg could bankroll the operation while Giffords could be the public face of it.
Yet that idea seems to be etched more in fan fiction than in political reality. Bloomberg is spending his own money on a cause that he believes in which is an admirable quality. Still, will it get comprehensive reform done?
That is to be determined.