New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent millions in political advertisements as part of an effort to become a “counterweight” to the National Rifle Association, the National Journal reported Sunday.
Through his super PAC, Independence USA, Bloomberg, who defines himself as independent, has bought campaign ads in five states supporting candidates who favor strict gun-control measures, including a $2.35 million purchase on behalf of California state Sen. Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-CA) in the race for a new congressional district seat in the Inland Valley region.
The purchase prompted criticism from her opponent, fellow Democrat Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA).
“It is appalling that an East Coast outsider like Mayor Bloomberg is trying to dictate the outcome of a congressional race thousands of miles away,” Baca told The San Bernadino Sun.
The group has also purchased ads backing congressional candidates in Illinois, Florida, Connecticut, and his home state of New York, as well as an ad in support of Kathleen Kane, a Democratic candidate for attorney general in Pennsylvania.
“There has never really been an effective counterweight to the NRA — at least in terms of dollars, cents and the ability to get a message out,” Independence USA spokesperson Stefan Friedman said. “I think the mayor’s been clear this is an issue he cares very passionately about and this could very well be a curtain-raiser to the future.”
The group’s website lists gun regulations alongside education policy and marriage equality as its core issues, saying it will “target candidates who support — and oppose — efforts to crack down on illegal guns and reform education policy.” Bloomberg is also the co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a bipartisan group that has called on presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to deliver concrete plans to curb gun violence.
NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam said the group had “billions of reasons” to take Bloomberg’s efforts seriously, making reference to his estimated net worth, but criticized his efforts in the wake of superstorm Sandy, which has left millions of Bloomberg’s constituents without power.
“The message that he’s sending is he’s so obsessed with banning guns that he’s trying to influence federal and state races from Pennsylvania to Florida to California instead of helping the victims of Hurricane Sandy,” Arulanandam said.