When Senator Dianne Feinstein recently spoke to a San Francisco crowd, she accused the “gun lobby” of being responsible for stripping her gun ban from pending gun-control legislation:
The National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers are to blame for the “disconnect” between the broad public support for gun control and the reluctance in Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said Wednesday.
Feinstein claimed the “NRA has intimidated senators with threats that the gun lobby would spend heavily to unseat them if they support” her gun ban. She summarized:
A fear has set in that if they vote for the bill they won’t be re-elected. It’s that plain, it’s that simple.
Once again, pro-gun control advocates claim “money equals influence” and is the only reason their proposals aren’t enacted.
Do recent campaign-finance disclosures support her claim?
Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum spent $382,600 on federal campaigns during the 2012 election cycle, including $5,000 for Barack Obama and $11,000 for congressional candidates. He gave $61,600 to the Democratic Senatorial Committee, and $300,000 to Majority PAC. Five other Blum Capital employees contributed $7,650, including $5,900 to Dianne Feinstein.
Open Secrets calls Majority PAC’s viewpoint “liberal.” It spent over $38 million during the 2012 election cycle: $3.6M for Democratic candidates, and $34.5M against Republican candidates. Blum also has benefited financially from his wife’s actions in the Senate:
On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband’s real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.
Mrs. Feinstein’s intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn’t a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments — not direct federal dollars.
Blum spent $32,800 during the 2008 election cycle and another $50,500 in 2010, around the time the FDIC contract was in negotiation.
Feinstein didn’t complain about Blum’s money influencing the outcome, despite her supposedly being concerned that political spending creates undue influence in Washington.
Forbes currently lists New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the 13th richest billionaire in the world, with a net worth of $27B. Bloomberg, co-chair of pro-gun control organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, spent $13.7M during the 2012 election cycle, including the entire $10M collected by the Independence USA PAC, which Open Secrets calls “liberal.”
Bloomberg, via Independence USA, spent $2.3M trying to replace NRA “A”-graded Daniel Webster (FL-10) with an “F”-graded challenger, and spent $3.3M trying to replace Joe Baca (CA-35, NRA grade “B+”) with an NRA “D”-graded challenger. Another half-million went to replacing “A”-graded Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-24) with “F”-graded Dan Maffei.
Bloomberg recently spent another $12M on a multi-state advertising campaign, attempting to influence representatives to vote for pending federal gun-control legislation. But while promoting greater restrictions for the average American, Bloomberg’s police guards received “special permission” to carry guns while in relatively gun-free Bermuda:
The mayor also takes along a police detail when he travels … the city pays their wages while they are there, as it does whether Mr. Bloomberg is New York or not. Guns are largely forbidden in Bermuda — even most police officers do not use them — but the mayor’s guards have special permission to carry weapons.
Feinstein hasn’t expressed concern over Bloomberg using his wealth to influence local elections or federal legislation.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun manufacturers’ trade association, contributed $34,000 to federal candidates’ campaigns in 2012. Open Secrets also reports that the NSSF spent $1,130,000 on lobbying in 2011-2012 and a total of $51,990 in PAC money during the 2012 election cycle. According to their “2012 Economic Impact Report,” the firearms and ammunition industries employ 99,820 people. This averages out to $12.18 per person in total political spending for the 2012 election cycle.
The NSSF estimates that the entire firearms and ammunition industry generated about $6 billion in revenue for 2012. If these companies were combined into one, it would rank around 410 on the Fortune 500 list.
The NRA currently has almost 5 million members, according to NRA sources. During the 2012 election cycle, the NRA spent a total of $22.7M on federal politics: $1.1M in direct campaign contributions, $5.5M on lobbying, and $16.2M in PAC money, which included another $1.5M in campaign contributions. Assuming “almost 5 million” is closer to 4.9M members, the NRA spent about $4.64 per member on federal politics during the last election cycle. Feinstein apparently believes that some Americans have more First Amendment rights than others, with net worth being a major criterion:
* Advertising to promote proposed federal gun control
According to Feinstein’s “money equals influence” criterion, Michael Bloomberg, one of the wealthiest people in the world, spent nearly as much as five million Americans to convince Congress to limit our civil right of self-defense.
If millions of Americans band together into one organization that represents their interests, and it spends $4.64 per person to advance those interests, that’s a “threat” to the legislative process. But if one wealthy person spends over $24 million to advance Feinstein’s interests? That’s democracy in action.
This is all very curious, because the Oxford English Dictionary defines democracy as:
A form of government in which the power resides in the people and is exercised by them either directly or by means of elected representatives; a form of society which favors equal rights, the ignoring of hereditary class distinctions, and tolerance of minority views.
Considering that there are 100 million gun owners in America, the civil right of self-defense isn’t even a minority view. Democratic Senator Feinstein’s — and rich “liberal” Michael Bloomberg’s — real message: “How dare you oppose my will?”
Now that’s undemocratic.