It’s not just webhosting that Michael Bloomberg gets from New York City for his gun-control push. The New York Post reports today that Bloomberg sent a city employee paid by Big Apple taxpayers to lobby Nevada legislators for tougher background checks on firearms:
Mayor Bloomberg is spending city cash and resources on his pet project to toughen US gun laws through his national organization, The Post has learned.
City employee Christopher Kocher was sent to Nevada as a representative of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to lobby for a bill that enforces background checks on all firearm sales in that state.
But Kocher, who works as a special counsel to the mayor’s office, apparently didn’t want his role to be known and scrubbed his City Hall e-mail address from the state of Nevada lobbying-registration Web site early this month.
The Post asked the mayor’s office to respond to this story, and the answer was … what’s the big deal? Lots of cities lobby legislatures on a wide spectrum of public policy, they claim. As Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group points out in response, that’s usually limited to the legislature of the state in which the city exists:
A Bloomberg aide argued that city governments frequently lobby state and national leaders to push legislation related to the city’s well-being for issues ranging from mass transit to health care.
But Russianoff said Nevada isn’t in the same league as Albany and Washington, which have direct connections to what happens in New York City.
“They deal with jurisdictions that have sway over our future, and Nevada does not,” he said.
It might even make sense for NYC to lobby state legislatures in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, given their proximity to all three. Nevada, on the other hand, is more than 2,000 miles away from New York. Taxpayers might well wonder — even apart from the misappropriation of public funds — why their mayor and their mayor’s special counsel are focusing on Carson City rather than on their own responsibilities at home.
Besides, Kocher wasn’t representing the City of New York as a lobbyist. He was representing Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a private group headed by Bloomberg, while on the city payroll, as Politico reports:
“With 85 percent of guns used in crimes here coming from out of state, gun policy everywhere has an impact on the safety of New Yorkers,” said Bloomberg spokesman John McCarthy, insisting it’s a governmental issue. “The mayor’s top priority is keeping New Yorkers safe and that includes seeking sane gun laws in other states and D.C. to help reduce the flow of illegal guns to New York.”
But Nevada lobbying forms show it was not City Hall, but the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund, for whom Kocher was registered as working. The “action fund” is the 501(c)(4) through which Bloomberg has personally paid for more than $12 million in campaign-style ads against senators who did not back a gun control bill in the Senate, part of a national effort he is waging.
City Hall had insisted last week, when Ace of Spades blogger John Ekdahl first raised questions about the MAIG website being hosted on city government web servers, that there was separation between MAIG as the coalition of mayors involved, and the 501(c)(4), which has tax-exempt status.
Mayors who use taxpayer resources to promote their own private organizations are committing corruption no matter how beneficent the effort might seem to some. And, as the Post reminds readers, it’s not as though Bloomberg can claim poverty; he has billions of his own fortune to spend on his national politicking. Why, then, did Bloomberg not find a lobbyist who doesn’t work for the city, and find private webhosting for MAIG? Maybe’s he’s just a cheapskate, or perhaps he’s like a lot of corrupt politicians who believe that public resources are his to do with as he pleases. He’ll be out of office soon enough — the election is this fall, and Bloomberg’s not running for re-election — but perhaps the state of New York might want to send a couple of lawyers down to Manhattan to find out what’s going on in the city, and what other public resources Bloomberg has hijacked for his own pleasure.