AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, second from left, is behind Independence USA, a political action committee that will support candidates willing to crack down on illegal weapons.
Seems like everybody’s creating a political action committee this year — from Stephen Colbert to the brother of a Fullerton Congressional candidate. Now, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is getting into the Super PAC act. And his support could help a Democratic challenger unseat a Democratic Congressional incumbent in the Inland Empire.
Bloomberg made the announcement on his website. He’ll spend at least $10 million supporting gay marriage ballot propositions, as well as moderate local and Congressional candidates on both sides of the aisle who work in a bipartisan manner.
The New York Times identified one of those candidates as California State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who's running for Congress. She first heard the news after returning to her office from a funeral. She says there were "tons of e-mails" telling her about an article in the Times. "And I said, 'About what?'”
Because of California’s “top two” election system, McLeod is running against another Democrat, incumbent Ontario Congressman Joe Baca. He was both shocked and surprised by the news and asked, “Why am I being attacked from the East Coast and Bloomberg?”
The issue is guns. Bloomberg says he’ll support candidates who will crack down on illegal weapons. When Baca first ran for Congress in 1999, the National Rifle Association named him one of its “Defenders of Freedom.” On this year's NRA report card, the group gives Baca a “B+” grade — described as “generally a pro-gun candidate.”
Baca says he believes in protecting the Second Amendment of the Constitution — the right to bear arms. He says it’s important to uphold that right, "But I also believe that we need to focus on firearms that fall into the wrong hands."
Most California Democrats in Congress rate an “F” from the NRA. Baca points out McLeod got a “D,” which the NRA gives to "anti-gun" candidates who usually support restrictive gun control legislation.
But McLeod's position on guns sounds similar to Baca’s. She says she also believes in the Second Amendment: "My husband is a former police officer so we, in fact, do have guns. They’re put away in a safe. I don’t have a problem with legitimate people having guns as long as they’re registered and they know how to use them."
Baca — who won the primary by nine percentage points — has raised $900,000 for his campaign, with nearly $300,000 in cash to spend in the last few weeks before the election. McLeod has raised less than a third of that amount, with less than $100,000 in cash on hand.
An infusion from Bloomberg could make a difference to McLeod’s campaign, but she notes it would be an independent expenditure. "I have absolutely no control" of that kind of contribution, she says. "I can’t even see it. I don’t know anything about it, they can’t coordinate with me."
McLeod says this isn’t the first time the promise of campaign PAC money has been rumored. In the primary, there was talk of money for candidates challenging incumbents. It never materialized for her.
Attempts to get a response from Mayor Bloomberg and his Independence USA PAC were unsuccessful.