Bloomberg group gives Maine gun purchase background check proponents huge cash edge

Good morning from Augusta, where filings from two groups looking to expand firearm background checks on Maine’s 2016 ballot show that they’re awash in much more cash from a group linked to Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire ex-mayor of New York City.

In April and May, filings with the Maine Ethics Commission show that the group, Everytown for Gun Safety — which is funding background check campaigns this year in both Maine and Nevada — gave nearly $2.3 million to two merging groups that have been funding the campaign here.

All told and including in-kind contributions, Everytown has given almost $3.6 million to the Maine effort since 2015, making up almost all of the funding for the effort, a point that has drawn criticism from gun-rights activists.

However, those forces are outgunned financially. The National Rifle Association is expected to lead opposition to the Maine effort, but their political action committee here had just under $31,000 at May’s end.

The Everytown-linked groups also have a cadre of operatives working on the issue. Filings show they’ve paid more than $95,000 for polling in April and May. They’ve hired Bernstein Shur, Augusta-based Maine Street Solutions, Portland-based Baldacci Communications and Republican operative Lance Dutson to work on the campaign.

The filings also show that one of the Everytown-backed groups has already reserved $1.4 million in fall TV advertising in Maine. Other campaigns have also been booking time, including another $2.1 million from party groups waging war in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District this year. Earlier bookings can mean cheaper rates, and it’s not clear that background check opponents will be able to rival that total.

The NRA recently installed a top Republican consultant and lobbyist to run its Nevada campaign, according to the blog, so a similar move in Maine might not be far away. But they’ve got catching up to do. — Michael Shepherd 

Quick hits

  • U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, told POLITICO that he’ll continue caucusing with Democrats, but he didn’t say if he’d vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump. King’s coy response was: “I’m going to vote. And I’m going to decide how I’m going to vote. And chances are I will announce how I’m going to vote. I don’t anticipate that happening in the immediate future.”
  • The Maine Medical Association said this week that it has delayed issuing a position on a marijuana legalization question on the statewide 2016 ballot amid some division among its ranks. A survey of 662 doctors found that 66 percent wanted the association to issue a position. If it did, 56 percent said they’d want it to oppose the question, compared to 31 percent who want to support it. The board now expects to consider a resolution on the issue in September.
  • Gov. Paul LePage will host another town hall meeting at the Augusta Armory tonight from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. I’ll be there. Check for updates — if it demands them. — Michael Shepherd

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About Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after covering state, federal and local issues for the Kennebec Journal for three years. He's a Hallowell native who now lives in Gardiner. He graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and is a graduate student at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service.