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NRA, Milwaukee sheriff take off the gloves v. Michael Bloomberg

Today could be a very bad day politically for billionaire anti-gunner Michael Bloomberg, who is not only being served crow by a nationally-popular Wisconsin sheriff his big money failed to dislodge from office, but is now also suddenly in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association, according to USA Today, and the gloves are definitely off.

Michael Bloomberg, shown here at the 15th annual Art for Life Gala in July, is under heavy fire for using his fortune to push gun control.
Michael Bloomberg, shown here at the 15th annual Art for Life Gala in July, is under heavy fire for using his fortune to push gun control.Photo by Brian Ach

Milwaukee County, Wis., Sheriff David Clarke, writing yesterday in the Washington Times, essentially told Bloomberg to stay out of his territory. Bloomberg spent $150,000 in an attempt to defeat the sheriff’s run for re-election last week because of his pro-Second Amendment philosophy. The effort failed, and the sheriff is fighting back.

This morning, the NRA is launching an advertisement that talks about “fly-over America” and shows a woman driving a pickup truck with the message, “Bloomberg tries to ban your snack food, your sodas and most of all, your guns.” The spot then tells the Big Apple billionaire, “Keep your politics in New York. And keep your hands off our guns and our freedom.”

It may be no coincidence that this ad is launched 48 hours after the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action published a blistering analysis of how Bloomberg’s anti-gun politics are influencing the campaign to pass Initiative 594 in Washington State. Headlined “How Michael Bloomberg Is Twisting The Gun Control Debate In The Evergreen State Washing-con,” the 2,899-word ILA piece picks apart many of the problems gun owners have with the I-594 language, and it is also particularly hard on King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, who has emerged as a chief I-594 proponent.

Satterberg, whose office has never, to this column’s knowledge, made a wrong call on a self-defense shooting, was the main I-594 representative during a June debate on that measure and opposing Initiative 591 before the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs. WACOPS is the state’s oldest and largest rank-and-file law enforcement group, and 48 hours after the debate, WACOPS announced its opposition to I-594 and support of I-591, a fact that has been curiously left out of news coverage, except for Examiner, talk radio a single mention from veteran Seattle P-I.com columnist Joel Connelly.

While Bloomberg has only helped the I-594 campaign directly with a $30,000 contribution from his Mayors Against Illegal Guns in December, his other enterprise, the $50 million so-called “grassroots” lobbying group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is expected to roll out some independent effort to pass the 18-page gun control measure. It may be that Bloomberg doesn’t think his millions of dollars are necessary, since I-594 already has backing from local wealthy elitists.

“It is telling,” NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker told Examiner via e-mail, “that the pro-I-594 campaign is not using Michael Bloomberg as the face of their effort. They seem to realize that Bloomberg is a serious political liability.”

Yesterday’s Washington Post did a piece headlined, “How Microsoft money is driving Washington’s gun background check debate.” It details how roughly one-third of the campaign money already raised to push I-594 has come from former Microsoft executives Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Paul Allen. Their riches were largely preceded by the deep pocket expenditures of Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer.

Add to that the sizeable five-figure contributions by other wealthy Seattle-area elitists and the “dueling initiatives” battle takes on a rich man-poor man theme that could seriously backfire among Washington’s far more numerous middle-class and blue collar citizens. Evergreen State gun rights activists are already getting testy about rich people, living in exclusive neighborhoods, with armed security, trying to dictate to the rest of Washington’s citizens how they should live.

For months, the genuine grassroots activists spearheading the I-591 campaign – including Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms – have been warning that anti-gunners want to bring Bloomberg-style gun laws to the Pacific Northwest. They have been out-raised and out-spent nearly five-to-one, and still they’re holding their own against a financial juggernaut that includes slick messaging and independent advertising.

Now comes the NRA with its in-your-face-Bloomberg advertising effort. On its flank is Sheriff Clarke, reminding voters that Bloomberg, and billionaires like him, can be beat. Colorado grassroots activists did it last year, overcoming Bloomberg’s $350,000 effort to protect two anti-gun state senators who were recalled for their gun control votes.

While the NRA has taken no position on I-591, which is being promoted by Protect Our Gun Rights – a statewide coalition that includes CCRKBA, the Washington Arms Collectors, Hunters Heritage Council and Washington State Rifle & Pistol Association – their national attack on Bloomberg could have local implications. The NRA has spent very little so far directly on the I-594 campaign, but by linking the initiative to Bloomberg, it might help stir Washington gun owners to turn out the vote in November.

Outside of Seattle and the I-5 corridor through Puget Sound, Washington is still a pretty red state. There are, by some estimates, about 1.5 million or more gun owners, including more than 465,000 concealed pistol licensees. Many of them vote Democrat on everything but gun issues.

Some estimates also peg the NRA membership in Washington at between 90,000 and 100,000, but there is no confirmation on that. If all of those people suddenly kicked in just $5 or $10 apiece to the I-591 campaign, the political landscape for the state’s gun prohibition lobby could go up in smoke faster than Okanogan County and South Cle Elum Ridge.