by Jeff Knox
Cities around the country have created staff positions for professional lobbyists whose primary function is to drum up support for anti-gun legislation, ordinances and regulations. Part of these lobbyists salaries are being paid by grants from do-gooder foundations like the Joyce Foundation, but the balance of salaries, benefits and support costs are being borne by you, the taxpayer.
An associate of mine in Florida named Sean Caranna was doing some research for his grassroots rights organization, Florida Carry, Inc., when he came across something on the agenda of the Orlando City Council that he immediately recognized as a serious problem.
The item was for the renewal of a contract for a city employee. That's mundane enough, but the job title of this particular employee was "Mayors Against Illegal Guns regional coordinator," and the job description is to "play an integral role in the coordination and planning of gun crime prevention and illegal gun-related initiatives, events and media opportunities in the city and in the region" (the full council agenda and detailed information can be found on the City of Orlando website).
In the case of Orlando, the grant is $60,000 from something called the "United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund," which appears to be a front group set up by billionaire mayor of New York City Mike Bloomberg - the creator of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The Joyce Foundation provides the primary funding for Bloomberg's "support fund" to the tune of $650,000 in 2011 and at least $1,000,000 more in the previous 3 years.
While the grant to Orlando pays the bulk of the regional coordinator's salary, the city is allocating $24,000 of citizen's money to fund the position and providing other city resources and facilities for her use. The person tapped for the job is a woman who has worked as a regional coordinator for the Brady Campaign Against Guns, and as a professional lobbyist for MAIG and several other groups.
In essence, the city is paying $24,000 to have an anti-rights organization's lobbyist working in their offices and pretending to be a city employee.
After discovering this scam in Orlando, Caranna began digging deeper and found similar sweetheart deals in several other cities around the country, including Seattle, Milwaukee, Columbus and Minneapolis. Based solely on the funding numbers from the Joyce Foundation, there should be at least 10 of these regional coordinators around the country - working against rights and being compensated in part by taxpayers.
Finding them all has proven to be a bit of a challenge, as no one from MAIG, Joyce or the Support Fund seems interested in advertising the coordinators' existence. Caranna found, and my own research confirms, that some cities try to keep their participation in the scheme on the down low by using initials or euphemistic titles and job descriptions, but now that we know about the scam, I don't think it will take long to expose most all of the pseudo-city employees. With more than a million and a half dollars granted to the project over the past 4 years by the Joyce Foundation alone, there has to be a money trail to follow. We also know all 600 mayors involved in MAIG and will be scouring the books of each of them looking for traces of this scheme.
I'm asking all of the members of The Firearms Coalition and all of my readers to help us locate these taxpayer funded anti-rights lobbyists. You can find a list of all of the participating mayors on the MAIG website and then launch your own investigation into any of them you choose.
While we're at it, let's look into this whole concept of private grants funding, and influencing, public policy. On its surface, the idea of a charitable group helping a municipality do some public service seems reasonable; a family group might support municipal preschool and after school programs, for instance. But if that group has a political agenda, or demands inclusion of a controversial curriculum, the "gift" becomes questionable.
From one side these grants look like a way for the charitable group to make their dollars go further while helping a city reach its goals, but it is also a way for a pressure group to get public funding for their agenda.
Imagine the uproar if a city created a staff position for the promotion of firearm safety training with funding from the NRA Foundation. Even if the program focused solely on safety and never crossed into the rights issue or promotion of firearms ownership, the media and hoplophobes would go ballistic.
The very innocuous and apolitical Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program, with coloring books and video cartoons teaching kids that if they come across a gun they should "Stop - Don't Touch - Leave the Area - and Tell an Adult," comes under fire because it is given to schools and police departments free by the NRA Foundation.
Public-private partnerships can be good things, but local politicians need to be extremely cautious about giving the keys to the city to any outside group whose altruism might be driven by a political or social agenda. The old adage of never looking a gift horse in the mouth does not apply in civic matters - just ask the Trojans. It is very tempting to a politician to be able to offer constituents some valuable service at a fraction of its normal cost, so it's up to the citizens to be attentive and keep their politicians on the straight and narrow.
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