Even NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam says: "We have billions of reasons to take him seriously," adding, "He is a well-financed opponent."
Bloomberg so far has poured roughly $12 million into his five-month-old super PAC, Independence USA, to back eight candidates in races across America. He chose them because of several issues, including marriage equality and education reform, but the top issue appears to be gun control. In particular, one race in Illinois – a special primary election in February to fill a congressional seat vacated by Jesse Jackson Jr. – put Bloomberg and his super PAC in the headlines.
One of the Democratic contenders was Debbie Halvorson, who had previously been given an 'A' rating by the NRA. The other main contender, Robin Kelly, was backed by Bloomberg. A $2.5 million flurry of spending by his super PAC, bankrolling an aggressive ad campaign, turned Ms. Halvorson's NRA rating into a scarlet letter 'A' of a liability. Ms. Kelly emerged victorious in the primary.
"The NRA for too long has held the megaphone," says John Feinblatt, chief adviser to Bloomberg. "The NRA has had the ear of Congress for too long, and the mayor believes it's important for the facts to come out."
What's on a billionaire's wish list? For Bloomberg, it's legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales, restrictions on high-capacity magazines, a ban on military-style assault weapons, and legislation making gun trafficking a felony.
He has also urged President Obama to prosecute those who lie on background checks, remove restrictions on gun-violence research, order federal agencies to provide information for a national background-check database, and appoint a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which has been without a leader since 2006.