Judicial Watch • The Raben Group

The Raben Group Archives | Judicial Watch

After the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy, President Obama proposed 23 “executive actions” related to gun regulation – none of which, we are told, require congressional action.

President Obama decided in 2011 to bypass Congress and implement his policies by executive fiat.  The president calls it his “We Can’t Wait” initiative.

But it is important to point out that President Obama is not the only politician who “can’t wait” to scrap the Second Amendment.  This is a fight that is ongoing in thousands of municipalities nationwide — none bigger than New York City.

Judicial Watch  filed a New York Freedom of Information Law request with Mayor Bloomberg’s office, seeking the mayor’s communications with an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG).  Bloomberg is a founding member of the group, which advocates for strict gun control laws.

The mayor’s office has yet to respond to Judicial Watch’s request, and it appears a FOIA lawsuit might be in the offing.  But this delayed response has not stopped JW from pressing forward with its investigation.  And here is a little bit about what JW investigators have discovered about the controversial Bloomberg operation:

  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has spent at least $840,000 on federal lobbying efforts since 2007, including $210,000 in 2010 and $200,000 in both 2011 and 2012.  The specific issues important to MAIG include expanding the background check system and fighting the Tiahart amendments (which require the destruction of records of passed background checks and limiting the use of background check information by law enforcement for other purposes)
  • Since 2009, MAIG’s sole lobbying firm has been The Raben Group, founded and led by former Clinton Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben.
  • Moreover, in addition to its explicit lobbying efforts on the policy positions noted above, MAIG has also undertaken a more surreptitious campaign to advance its anti-gun agenda.  Through the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund, MAIG has paid for regional coordinators to be employed in mayors’ offices throughout the country, including Minneapolis, Columbus, Lewiston, Reading, Seattle, a
  • In 2010 (the last year for which the group’s IRS Form 990 is available), MAIG provided grants totaling more than $371,000 to fund these positions.  Importantly, however, the positions are not cost-neutral for the municipalities in which coordinators are installed, meaning taxpayers must foot the bill for the rest.

This funding includes a matching requirement.  The recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator, and any salary paid to the Region

For example, according to a Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the City of Columbus uncovered by Judicial Watch:

This funding includes a matching requirement.  The recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator, and any salary paid to the Regional Coordinator in excess of $60,000.  The award recipient will also be required to provide appropriate office space and any additional funds necessary beyond the $15,000 in travel support from UAIGSF.  The award recipient shall direct the Coordinator to attend national Mayors Against Illegal Guns meetings and events on a regular basis.

And how is MAIG putting these taxpayer dollars to use?

Duties for the Columbus position include recruiting “25 new mayors in the region into the coalition” during the grant year.  A separate Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the city of Orlando, also uncovered by Judicial Watch, outlines much loftier recruiting goals:

  • Recruiting and maintaining a coalition of 50+ mayors in Florida, including regular efforts to maintain communications with the mayors to keep them informed and engaged.
  • Working with faith leaders, domestic violence prevention groups, and other partner citizen groups to support the mayors’ agenda.  Recruiting 25 faith leaders who agree to regularly write letters or testify in support of coalition-backed legislation, and communicate with their congregations about the coalition’s agenda.
  • Supporting coalition efforts to promote responsible firearms sales at local firearms retailers.  Identifying 2-3 firearms retailers in Florida to approach, either directly or through intermediaries, about signing on to the coalition’s Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership.
  • Identifying and reaching out to sportsmen’s organizations sympathetic to the coalition’s mission of keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.  Recruiting a core team of 5-10 sportsmen who could testify at legislative hearings in support of legislation backed by the coalition.

Now these agreements stipulate that “no portion of the grant may be used to support lobbying activities.”  However, that seems to be a distinction without a difference, as the requirements for the position include:

  • Working to pass state or county laws requiring background checks for all gun sales at gun shows and/or a state law requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns;
  • Working to pass a state law allowing broader local government control of gun laws so that local governments can enact gun laws that they determine would help protect public safety;
  • Working to pass a new state law requiring regular gun dealer inspections to detect possible sales to illegal gun traffickers.

So what does all of this mean?

“President Obama may be the ring leader in the attack on the Second Amendment, but he has thousands of foot soldiers in cities across America to do the gritty work of pushing the gun control agenda city by city,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.  “As these records show, municipalities are essentially responsible for paying part of the cost of recruiting new cities to join these anti-gun lobbying efforts.  Judicial Watch is now analyzing the ethical and legal implications of this secretive campaign.”

Stay tuned as the battle over the Second Amendment is just beginning – and Judicial Watch is helping lead the fight for our freedom.

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