By MANNIX PORTERFIELD
for the Daily Telegraph
Controversial New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s more outspoken advocates of rigid gun controls and an avowed enemy of coal and big soft drinks, is throwing a fundraising party this month for Sen. Joe Manchin.
Bloomberg’s bash comes at a time when the West Virginia senator is planning to try again on his once-failed bill to hand the federal government more powers to control firearms purchases.
Manchin isn’t talking directly about the $1,000-a-ticket party.
Instead, when his office was asked repeatedly for an explanation for nearly a week, an unidentified campaign aide said Bloomberg and Manchin might not see eye-to-eye on many issues, but the two agree that “it’s just common sense to require criminal and mental background checks” for sales at gun shows and on-line purchases.
“Sen. Manchin believes that part of what is wrong with Washington these days is the notion that you are guilty not just by association but simply by conversation,” the aide told The Register-Herald.
Bloomberg went on a tear in recent years over a number of issues, making him one of the country’s more recognizable politicians.
He dug into his deep pockets and came up with $50 million for the Sierra Club to use in a campaign against coal production.
Bloomberg called for the outlawing of semi-automatic rifles, a stand that Manchin once described as “craziness.” And, he incurred the wrath and ridicule of many by attempting to limit the sales of sugar-laden soft drinks to 12 ounces in the Big Apple.
“Sen. Manchin and Mayor Bloomberg disagree on nine of 10 issues, especially on the importance of how coal will shape America’s energy future,” the campaign aide said.
“Sen. Manchin has always done what he believes is right for West Virginians and he will continue to work with people from every party on issues about which he feels strongly.”
While Manchin didn’t directly address the fundraiser, the Republican Party in his home state seized on the impending event to say that the Democratic senator’s is “turning his back on West Virginia to collect thousands in fundraising checks from New York liberals like Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”
State Chairman Conrad Lucas said Manchin’s choice of a party host is no surprise, since he vetoed the 2nd Amendment Appreciation Act of 2010 that was intended to create a pre-deer hunting season tax holiday for West Virginia families.
“Joe Manchin’s record as a traitor to the Second Amendment didn’t start when he moved to Washington,” Lucas said.
“He eagerly endorsed the anti-coal candidate Barack Obama. Then, this failure to sign the Second Amendment Appreciation Act was a hint in early 2010 that Manchin wasn’t serious about west Virginia values.”
At the time, as governor, voiced concerns that “challenging and uncertain economic times” prevented him from risking the loss of $25,000 in revenues from the one-weekend tax holiday, Lucas said, but he harbored no such reservations about a three-month sales tax holiday when buying household appliances.
“It’s clear, the more we learn about Manchin, the more we find out he’s not one of us,” Lucas said.
“Our families deserve the right to protect themselves with legal guns as our Constitution intends. It seems like Manchin is just another foot soldier in Obama’s ‘war on West Virginia.’”
Bloomberg is no stranger to West Virginia politics.
A few years ago, Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, pushed legislation known in Capitol vernacular as “the Bloomberg bill,” making it a felony to entice a firearms dealer into selling a gun illegally. The bill came in response to Bloomberg’s use of police officials to make such buys in other states in a sting operation, notably in Virginia.
That was one of many bills advocated by the National Rifle Association, which has locked horns with Manchin over his proposed background checks — legislation inspired by the slaughter of 20 school children last December in a Connecticut school house.
In recent weeks, Manchin, a lifetime NRA member, and the organization have engaged in dueling television ads over the issue.
Manchin recently told The Register-Herald editorial board the organization is less interested in public safety than in promoting gun sales by advertisers in its magazines, and the NRA in turn accused the senator of flip-flopping by reneging on a campaign pledge never to support enhanced background checks.
Of late, the NRA is back on the offensive, sending out 200,000 flyers to West Virginians critical of Manchin’s proposal and warning it could lead to a national registry of firearms — one step away, other 2nd Amendment advocates warn, from confiscation.