“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste… And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” This is what former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said in a Wall Street Journal forum before leaving the Obama administration.
While Emanuel may be hundreds of miles away from Washington, DC, running the corrupt city of Chicago, the Obama administration continues to follow his creed. Case in point: the Obama administration’s shameless and aggressive exploitation of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy.
After Sandy Hook, Obama proposed 23 “executive actions” related to gun regulation – none of which, we are told, require congressional action. This is the “new normal” in the Obama administration. President Obama previously decided in 2011 to bypass Congress and implement his policies by executive fiat, calling that plan his “We Can’t Wait” initiative.
In this present case, the president has tapped Vice President Biden to lead his gun control initiative. Since much of what was discussed between Biden and gun control activists took place behind closed doors, Judicial Watch once again stepped up to force transparency on this administration by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to pry loose records related to the vice president’s meetings. (We have yet to receive a response.)
It is important to point out that President Obama is not the only politician who “can’t wait” to scrap the Second Amendment. This is a fight that is ongoing in thousands of municipalities nationwide, none bigger than New York City.
At the same time we filed our FOIA regarding the Biden meetings, Judicial Watch also filed a separate New York Freedom of Information Law request with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, seeking the mayor’s communications with an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG). Bloomberg is a founding member of the group, which advocates for strict gun control laws.
The mayor’s office has yet to respond to our request, but this delayed response hasn’t stopped JW from pressing forward with its investigation. Here is a little bit JW investigators have discovered about the controversial Bloomberg operation:
Mayors Against Illegal Guns has spent at least $840,000 on federal lobbying efforts since 2007, including $210,000 in 2010 and $200,000 in both 2011 and 2012. The specific issues important to MAIG include expanding the background check system and fighting the Tiahart amendments (which require the destruction of records of passed background checks and limit the use of background check information by law enforcement for other purposes).
Since 2009, MAIG’s sole lobbying firm has been The Raben Group, founded and led by former Clinton Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben.
Moreover, in addition to its explicit lobbying efforts on the policy positions noted above, MAIG has also undertaken a more surreptitious campaign to advance its anti-gun agenda. Through the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund, MAIG has paid for regional coordinators to be employed in mayors’ offices throughout the country, including Minneapolis, Columbus, Lewiston, Reading, Seattle, and Utica.
In 2010 (the last year for which the group’s IRS Form 990 is available), MAIG provided grants totaling more than $371,000 to fund these positions. Importantly, however, the positions are not cost-neutral for the municipalities in which coordinators are installed, meaning taxpayers must foot the rest of the bill.
For example, according to a Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the City of Columbus uncovered by Judicial Watch:
This funding includes a matching requirement. The recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator, and any salary paid to the Regional Coordinator in excess of $60,000. The award recipient will also be required to provide appropriate office space and any additional funds necessary beyond the $15,000 in travel support from UAIGSF. The award recipient shall direct the Coordinator to attend national Mayors Against Illegal Guns meetings and events on a regular basis.
And how is MAIG putting these taxpayer dollars to use?
Duties for the Columbus position include recruiting “25 new mayors in the region into the coalition” during the grant year. A separate Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the city of Orlando, also uncovered by Judicial Watch, outlines much loftier recruiting goals:
- Recruiting and maintaining a coalition of 50+ mayors in Florida, including regular efforts to maintain communications with the mayors to keep them informed and engaged.
- Working with faith leaders, domestic violence prevention groups, and other partner citizen groups to support the mayors’ agenda. Recruiting 25 faith leaders who agree to regularly write letters or testify in support of coalition-backed legislation, and communicate with their congregations about the coalition’s agenda.
- Supporting coalition efforts to promote responsible firearms sales at local firearms retailers. Identifying 2-3 firearms retailers in Florida to approach, either directly or through intermediaries, about signing on to the coalition’s Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership.
- Identifying and reaching out to sportsmen’s organizations sympathetic to the coalition’s mission of keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists. Recruiting a core team of 5-10 sportsmen who could testify at legislative hearings in support of legislation backed by the coalition.
Now these agreements stipulate that, “no portion of the grant may be used to support lobbying activities.” However, that seems to be a distinction without difference, as the requirements for the position include:
- Working to pass state or county laws requiring background checks for all gun sales at gun shows and/or a state law requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns;
- Working to pass a state law allowing broader local government control of gun laws so that local governments can enact gun laws that they determine would help protect public safety;
- Working to pass a new state law requiring regular gun dealer inspections to detect possible sales to illegal gun traffickers.
So what does all of this mean?
President Obama may be the ring leader in the attack on the Second Amendment, but he has thousands of foot soldiers in cities across America to do the gritty work of pushing the gun control agenda city by city. As these records show, municipalities are essentially responsible for paying part of the cost of recruiting new cities to join MAIG’s campaign and for de facto anti-gun lobbying efforts. Judicial Watch is now analyzing the ethical and legal implications of this secretive campaign.
The battle over the Second Amendment is just beginning.