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.
"It's just an outrage, and the public, I think, should stand up," Bloomberg said in a Feb. 19 briefing. "I'm part of the public, and I happen to have some money. That's what I am trying to do with my money – trying to get us some sensible gun laws."
The mayor is taking a multipronged approach to his national agenda: money, media, and old-fashioned politicking.
Besides Kelly from Illinois, Independence USA has thrown $1 million behind then-Rep. Bob Dold (R) of Illinois, who has backed gun-control measures; $2.4 million behind Florida Democratic congressional candidate Val Demings, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a proponent of "responsible gun ownership"; and $1.1 million behind Connecticut Republican congressional candidate Andrew Roraback, who has said his party must be open to "sensible gun control."
Those three candidates, however, did not win in the November elections. (But Independence USA has tallied wins in the five other races it's entered, most of which centered on other issues.)
Independence USA's seemingly scattershot support for candidates across the geographical and political map is "all issue-based," says Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for the super PAC. "We are looking at candidates and where they stand on issues," he says.