A rush to maximize political benefit from the Newtown school shooting, bickering over celebrity sponsors and snarky commentary on some of the nation’s most prominent politicians are among the things to emerge from communications between former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York City Hall staff and executives at the Bloomberg-founded group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG).
Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog group, obtained 547 pages of e-mails between the city hall and the anti-gun organization pursuant through a lawsuit under New York state’s Freedom of Information Law. TheBlaze determined the five most intriguing aspects of the communications so you don’t have to read all 547 pages.
1. Little Separation Between City Hall and Political Nonprofit: ‘Must Have Some Metrics’
New York City Hall employees, paid by the city’s taxpayers, spent significant time intertwined with a national group that had nothing to do with gun policy or any other policy in the New York City limits.
Among the prominent city hall staffers involved in seemingly every minutia of the anti-gun group was John Feinblatt, the chief adviser to Mayor Bloomberg for policy and strategic planning and the criminal justice coordinator. The bulk of e-mails were between Feinblatt and Mark Glaze, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
But in numerous e-mails, various other city hall officials were cc’d.
In a blunt message to Glaze and MAIG staff, after a courtesy of “everyone is doing a great job,” Feinblatt demanded the group show him some real measurable signs of progress.
“I must have some metrics,” Feinblatt wrote on Dec. 22, 2012, days after the organization tried to maximize the political impact of the Connecticut shooting. “We are pouring money into this effort and I can’t answer the most basic questions – money raised, petitions sent, names acquired etc. There is no sure recipe for the money drying up than to be caught empty handed when asked how are we performing. Please do everything you can to fix this now.” (Page 233 of PDF)
Five days later, the group delivered a memo with the those metrics. (Page 270 of the PDF)
“Since Newtown: We have 283,781 new supporters. We have 890,931 total active supporters. … 2,154 people have donated $188,238.50 through our websites. The average donation is about $87.00,” the MAIG memo said.
On Dec. 21, 2012, Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor’s office of media and entertainment, e-mailed Feinblatt excitedly talking about celebrities doing anti-gun commercials and the “Demand a Plan” website, set up to push for stricter gun laws. (Page 191 of the PDF)
“The mayor will tweet about this and we want to send traffic to Demandaplan.org we also would like celebrities who participated in the campaign to – retweet Mike Bloomberg’s tweets – can we reach out to all the celebrity participants and coordinate that effort?” Oliver wrote.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called this a personal political effort from Bloomberg.
“This was a lobbying effort funded by taxpayers,” Fitton told TheBlaze. “There is a legal question here. There is certainly enough smoke and fire here. It certainly warrants an investigation. Someone entrusted to public office is only supposed to do the public’s work there.”
2. Bloomberg’s Strategy After Newtown Shooting: ‘Ahead of Congress, the White House and the Press’
On Dec. 14, 2012, when gunman in Newtown murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Glaze forwarded Feinblatt an e-mail message pointing out that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this was not the day to talk about gun policy. He apparently thought that left a vacuum.
A little over 12 hours later, at 1:32 a.m., Glaze again e-mailed Feinblatt on “a couple thoughts for keeping the mayor ahead of Congress, the white house, the press.” (Page 14 of the PDF)
The Glaze message continued saying Bloomberg should meet with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden before the inauguration. “He could ask to meet next week, possibly bringing survivors with him,” Glaze wrote.
He was also hopeful of getting converts to their side on Capitol Hill and suggested meetings with several specific members of Congress including Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and John Tester (D-Mt.).
“It says something when political aides were trying to figure out how their boss could benefit politically from the mass murder of children,” Fitton told TheBlaze regarding Glaze’s message.
3. Terse Duel Over Celeb Endorsements: ‘Strange E-Mails and Threats’
Glaze became very irked upon getting wind that another organization advocating gun control – the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence – was recruiting some of the same Hollywood celebrities to do public service announcements as Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
Glaze alarmed Feinblatt of a call he got from a celebrity booking agent MAIG worked with who told him, “Brady is trying to persuade both her and other celebs to do psa with brady instead. That’s all I know, but he’d done this kind of thing before, and we need to cut it off.” (Page 44 of PDF)
Glaze followed with a terse e-mail to Brady Campaign President Daniel Gross, at this point, two days after the Newtown shooting.
“Dan – if true that you are attempting to intervene in the work we are doing with celebrities on Demand A Plan and drive them toward Brady: don’t,” Glaze wrote.
Gross responded, coming across as surprised by the tone.
“Making our schools and communities safer is the only thing on our mind versus our misplaced focus on strange e-mails and threats,” Gross wrote. “Bottom line is, some people are coming to Brady to engage, some people are coming to MAIG and some are coming to both. What’s most important is that they’re engaging at this most critical moment, to crated the change we all seek. We wish you only the best in all your important efforts and look forward [to] the day we find smart ways to work together.”
4. The NRA and ‘The Sound of a Political Career Dying’ (and Rahm Emanuel)
There was a common anti-NRA thread throughout most of the e-mails. In one message from Feinblatt to Glaze, they seemed approving of the current frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“Gov. Christie knocks NRA proposal,” Feinblatt told Glaze in the Dec. 21, 2012 message. The NRA had suggested armed guards in schools as an alternative to gun control. (Page 195 of PDF)
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, also a Republican, took a different approach and supported arming teachers and principles. Feinblatt told Glaze in a Dec. 18, 2012 message, “Need to hit him,” referring to McDonnell. Glaze gleefully responded, “We are. The sound of a political career dying.” (Page 88 of PDF)
In the same Glaze e-mail sent in the early hours of the morning after the Newtown massacre, the MAIG director suggested including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the gun control effort, mainly to keep him from feeling insulted. “[R]ahm. He’ll be in town on Monday – and if not invited to join us, doubly snubbed. Should figure out how to finesse that,” the e-mail said. (Page 14 of PDF)
5. Gary Hart Snubbed Again: ‘Not Your Man’
Former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who dropped out of the 1988 Democratic presidential primary in disgrace because an extramarital affair, has attempted more than a few political comebacks. He did so again after the Newtown shooting by contacting MAIG.
On Jan. 11, 2013, Hart told Feinblatt, “I am at the beginning stage of trying to organize support for a new gun owners organization as a counterweight to the NRA. … if I’m able to rally some financial and political support, I have no doubt such an organization could be formed in a matter of weeks.”
On Jan. 12, Glaze expressed skepticism to Feinblatt.
“Gary Hart is not your man if getting conservatives is your goal,” Glaze wrote.
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