Bloomberg to donors: Cut off Dem senators who opposed gun bill

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) on Wednesday wrote to hundreds of his state’s wealthiest donors, asking them to cut off funds to four Democratic senators who voted with Republicans to filibuster a background checks bill on gun purchases.

The influential billionaire has Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) in his cross-hairs. Baucus will retire at the end of his term, but the other three face difficult reelection efforts in red states.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by The Washington Post, Bloomberg called the votes against the background checks bill “a slap in the face to Americans everywhere.”

“The next time these four Senators want you to support them with donations to their campaigns, tell them you cannot,” the letter reads in part. “Until they show that they will stand up for the American people and not the gun lobby, tell them you cannot support their candidacy.”

“By voting against background checks, these Senators told us they would rather bow down to a special interest group than support a common-sense measure to help law enforcement fight gun crime,” Bloomberg continued. “Now you can tell these Senators: by voting against background checks, they voted against your values and your family’s safety. And until they show they will stop bowing to pressure from the gun lobby, you should not support them.”

Bloomberg’s latest efforts to reform gun control policy could threaten the Democratic majority in the Senate. 

Speaking on MSNBC on Wednesday, Bloomberg defended his decision to go after Senate Democrats on the issue.

“We’re dealing right now with this particular election where Democrats control the Senate,” Bloomberg said. “When you get [the bill] through the Senate and you get to the House, then you focus on the Republicans because they control the House.”

“Going after these guys and saying not to give money to them is the way democracy should work,” he added. “You should support the people you agree with … I’m not the first one to do this; we’ve always done it.”

According to The New York Times, which first reported the story, sitting Democratic senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more money from New York donors in 2012 than from any other state.

“What they are doing is increasing the likelihood of a 100 percent A-rated NRA Republican being elected,” a Democratic aide is quoted as saying in the Times report.

The New York City mayor has been seething since the Senate killed a bipartisan proposal to expand background checks in April.

The measure failed to get the 60 votes it needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, landing just 54 votes, with five Democrats opposing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the fifth Democrat to oppose, although he supports the bill and only voted against it so that he could reintroduce it in the future.

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voted in favor of background checks. Toomey co-sponsored the legislation with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Bloomberg has emerged as one of the foremost advocates for stricter gun laws in the wake of the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Bloomberg is co-chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and has used his high profile and deep pockets to build the group as a viable opponent to the nation’s largest gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.

The group has already targeted Pryor for his “no” vote in a six-figure ad blitz, and has also run ads lauding the leadership of Republicans who voted in favor of expanding background checks.

Gun control advocates have pressured those who voted against the background check bill in hopes of swaying their votes if the Senate takes up the issue again.

In April, the daughter of a Sandy Hook victim confronted Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) at a town hall meeting over her no vote.

Ayotte has seen her poll numbers decline since the vote, while Toomey, who co-sponsored the legislation, has seen his poll numbers rise to the highest level since he’s been in office.

Thursday is the six month anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, and families and supporters of the victims will again trek to Washington in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to act on gun control reform.

This story was updated at 9:14 a.m.