RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — One of Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s biggest donors and political allies has turned against him with an advertisement campaign condemning him for a deal he struck with GOP leaders on gun policy.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Everytown for Gun Safety took out a full-page ad in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday declaring that “Terry McAuliffe is wrong” and urging residents to pressure him to scrap the deal, which the group is portraying as a win for the gun lobby. Everytown has also been running online advertisements comparing McAuliffe to the head of the National Rifle Association.
The ad blitz comes as the Republican-controlled House prepares to vote this week on the gun legislation, which would reverse Attorney General Mark Herring’s action invalidating the concealed handgun permits of residents from more than two dozen states outside of Virginia. The legislation would require the attorney general to enter into reciprocity agreements with states whose permits haven’t previously been recognized in Virginia.
McAuliffe’s administration is dismissing Everytown’s attacks and standing by the deal, which it says as a whole will make residents safer. In exchange for the restoration of the concealed-carry reciprocity agreements, Republicans have agreed to back legislation long sought by Democrats that would prohibit people subject to a protective order from carrying firearms and require police presence at gun shows for voluntary background checks.
“The governor is disappointed that Michael Bloomberg and Everytown are engaged in a counterproductive political attack rather than building on a clear win for public safety in Virginia,” said McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy. Coy accused Everytown of trying to mislead Virginians about what the gun compromise does and said he doesn’t think that an out-of-state group will succeed in preventing the legislation from getting to the governor’s desk.
Everytown’s newspaper ad seeks to debunk some of McAuliffe’s recent claims about the gun deal, saying among other things that the legislation doesn’t ensure that domestic abusers or other criminals who were already denied a permit in Virginia couldn’t get one from another state.
A spokeswoman for the group declined to say how much it is spending on its ad campaign against McAuliffe.
Bloomberg has been one of McAuliffe’s biggest political patrons. His political action committee was McAuliffe’s single largest non-party donor during his successful 2013 gubernatorial bid. That PAC, called Independence USA, spent more than $1.7 million helping McAuliffe win and another $1.4 million helping McAuliffe’s Democratic allies.
Last year, when control of the state Senate was up for grabs, Bloomberg’s Everytown was the single biggest spender, pumping $2.4 million into campaigns. The massive spending did not have the desired effect, as Republicans retained their single-seat majority in the Senate.
Bloomberg has a long history of trying to influence gun laws and sales in the Old Dominion. As mayor he sent undercover investigators to Virginia and several other states posing as people who wanted to make “straw purchases” of guns intended for other people. Based on the sting operation, New York City sued dozens of gun dealers, including seven in Virginia.
Virginia’s General Assembly responded by enacting a law to make gun-straw-purchase sting operations a felony.
Associated Press writer Alan Suderman contributed to this report.
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