Exposed: Pulling back the curtain on the gun grabbers' Wizard of Toledo

Exclusive to Buckeye Firearms Association, reprint only with attribution

By Chad D. Baus

In the wake of Ohio's adoption of concealed carry reform in early 2004, the news media were searching for a reason why. Why, after they had written hundreds of anti-gun and anti-self-defense editorials, and after they had propped up a push-poll purporting to show majority opposition to this legislation, had politicians felt comfortable voting "yes"? Why, after years of opposition and efforts to insert poison pills into the legislation, had the waffling Governor Bob Taft signed the bill into law?

Their attempts to "answer" the question came in the form of "investigations" into which side made more political contributions on the issue, and how many calls, letters, faxes and emails were sent to Taft's office. Dayton Daily News reporter Laura Bischoff tried to make the case that money and a vocal minority forced the law. Her February 21, 2004 story began like this:

    When it comes to political contributions, the gun lobby outspent gun-control advocates 32 to 1 since 1995, the year legislative supporters first began pushing for a bill to allow Ohioans to carry concealed weapons.

Later Bischoff added:

    Pro-gun rights groups, including the NRA, Ohio Gun PAC and Gun Owners of America, gave legislative candidates and other state candidates $208,228 in political contributions since 1995, according to data from Ohio Citizen Action and the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. In contrast, Handgun Control Inc.'s political action committee gave $6,524 in 1998 and nothing in the other years, according to secretary of state records.

The overall assertions made by the anti-gun minority and this writer can be summed up with a quote from State Senator Eric Fingerhut:

    State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, D-Shaker Heights, another conceal-and-carry opponent, said the gun lobby mobilized a minority so that their voices were heard disproportionately to the silent majority who, Fingerhut said, oppose the measure.

At the time I told the DDN who the true minority was:

    "There is not a huge anti-gun movement in America. It's just not there," [Chad] Baus said.

    Instead, he said, the vocal anti-gun minority managed to hold up the concealed-carry legislation for nine years, in part, by predicting doom and gloom scenarios should the legislation be approved. Media sympathetic to gun control gives these groups better coverage, which influences politicians, Baus said.

The subject of Ohio gun ban lobbyists' claims of an abstract, invisible "majority" received new focus at the NRA's 2005 Annual Meeting and Convention when, during a roundtable discussion about the media broadcast on NRANews.com, University of Toledo Professor and author Brian Patrick referred to gun ban extremist Toby Hoover's Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV) as a "coalition of two".

Patrick observed: "Last Spring I read a news media piece in which Hoover criticized the Ohio CCW law on its first anniversary because only 45,000 or so people had obtained permits in the first year. This, said Hoover, indicated that the law was bad because such a small portion of the public was thereby represented. However even this 45,000 dwarfs OCAGV--which appears to have no tangible, mass membership at all--even though it claims to speak for millions."

I met with Patrick recently, and asked him to elaborate on the "coalition of two". He told me that he met with the OCAGV's executive director, Toby Hoover, in her Toledo office while preparing for an upcoming book. He said: "When I asked about membership Toby Hoover answered the question by asking another question--how does one define membership? Well, apparently they do it by fiat--claiming to speak for an abstract public."

Professor Patrick then cited J.M. Sproule's Propaganda and Democracy. "Sproule has an interesting discussion of these abstract publics--made up by interpreting attitudinal survey data and constructing these interpretations as a "public" when in fact no such public may exist. My impression is that the coalition is made up of several religious/neighborhood organizations that are similar in make up--a small paid professional staff that claims to speak for an abstract, invisible public. It's a social work missionary model. Overall the coalition seems a top-down affair, functioning more or less in the model of missionary or social work, than any kind of mass membership grassroots citizens group."

"I don't know if OCAGV has only two members," Patrick told me, "but its primary, perhaps sole manifestation as an organization or coalition seems to be two professional staff members in the basement of a church in downtown Toledo: Toby Hoover, the executive director and a secretary/receptionist."

The word "professional" stuck out in my mind, so I decided to do some digging. To say that what I discovered was a shock, as a person who has devoted years and years of volunteer work to the issue of gun rights, would be the understatement of the year.

Several volunteers for the Buckeye Firearms Association have since been working on this investigation, and have uncovered evidence that the OCAGV has been raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the ultra-liberal and anti-gun Joyce Foundation over the past several years, and that Toby Hoover has been paying herself a nice salary plus hefty expense reimbursements ever since.

We can also now reveal what the liberal media failed to do when examining the issue of money and influence - when it comes to funding for Ohio-based gun groups on both sides of the gun issue, Hoover's OCAGV wins hands-down.

Incestuous Ties

Toby Hoover's OCAGV operations are based out of an office she rents in the basement of the Collingwood Presbyterian Church in Toledo. While the church does business out of its address at 2108 Collingwood Blvd Toledo, Ohio 43620, Hoover and several other non-profit entities rent space in the church basement, and use a mailing address around the corner from Collingwood Blvd. - 444 Floyd St.

Buckeye Firearms Association has obtained OCAGV Internal Revenue Service tax records. The records reveal that OCAGV's first partial year of operations was 2002, and first full year of operations was 2003. Before that, Hoover was accepting grants as an anti-gun lobbyist under a non-profit entity called Toledo Metropolitan Ministries, (Toledo Ecumenical Area Ministries).

Like OCAGV, TMM-TEAM does business out of the same address - 444 Floyd St. TMM-TEAM describes itself as "a social justice ministry of seven denominations working ecumenically to identify needs for systemic changes, to plan and develop strategies and initiate projects to advocate justice and empower people." Among its other activities, TMM-TEAM helps homeless people get food and shelter. In 2001, Toby Hoover was listed as a Trustee of TMM-TEAM, and records show that subsequent years other OCAGV Board Members have at the same time been on the Board of TMM-TEAM.

In late 2004, the Toledo Blade ran a story on how a poor Ohio economy was hurting a part of TMM-TEAM. As you will soon see, at the exact time TMM-TEAM was experiencing this financial crisis, Hoover was steadily raking in money for her anti-gun cause.

Money Honey

The Joyce Foundation is known for giving millions and millions of dollars to left-wing causes like gun control over the years. In 2000, Toby Hoover dipped her hand into the honey pot, and she’s been making big withdrawals ever since.

From the Joyce Foundation website's Gun Grants page:

2000: Under the name Toledo Metropolitan Mission, Hoover got a $33,200 grant.
2001: Under the names Toledo Metropolitan Mission (Toledo Ecumenical Area Ministries), Hoover got a $250,000 grant for two years.
2003: Under the name Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Hoover got a $150,000 grant for 21 months.
2004: Under the name Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. Hoover got a $200,000 grant for 2 years.

$633,200, and that is just from the Joyce Foundation. Hoover’s IRS records also show she received $79,202 undisclosed non-cash contributions in the past two years alone (these could be contributions from other non-profit entities, or from private individuals - itemization is not required unless the amount is greater than $4400). Nearly three-quarters of one million dollars have flowed into this anti-gun organization in just four years, yet after passage of Ohio's concealed carry reform law, the liberal media tried to make the case that money bought the law.

Advocacy for Hire

In 2004, we revealed that Million Mom gun control extremist Lori O'Neill had started a new business of marketing fear and selling "no-guns" signs to Northeast Ohio businesses. Buckeye Firearms Association can now reveal that O'Neill isn't the only activist who is profiting off of her anti-gun rights extremism.

OCAGV's IRS filings list the name Safe Ohio, Inc., also at same Floyd St. address, as a related non-profit. Under this corporate name, Toby Hoover is registered as a paid lobbyist. To volunteers like myself, who pour literally thousands of hours a year into fighting for pro-gun causes, it is Ms. Hoover’s decision to pay herself and several others that seems most distasteful.

As noted above, before 2002, Hoover was accepting Joyce Foundation funds for her anti-gun lobbying through an organization called Toledo Metropolitan Mission (Toledo Ecumenical Area Ministries), or TMM-TEAM. 2001 IRS records for TMM-TEAM shows $112,536 going to the Coalition Against Gun Violence (at that point, the CAGV was just a program under TMM-TEAM’s umbrella). The return shows $4,371 in CAGV lobbying expenses. Toby is listed as a trustee of TMM-TEAM with no compensation other than the generous expense reimbursements, and only “nominal” hours. The return lists contributors of more than $5,000, but the names are redacted. One organization - presumably the Joyce Foundation - is listed as having contributed $281,500.

Hoover is not listed as a Trustee on TMM-TEAM's 2002 return, but the CAGV program is still on TMM-TEAM's list of program services, with fund disbursement of $98,348 listed in one place, and $48,687 list in another ($147,035 total).

2002 is listed in IRS records as a partial year of operations for OCAGV. IRS records reveal that OCAGV received $223,347 in income, including $21,125 in undisclosed non-cash contributions. Toby Hoover paid herself $20,462. Other non-director employees making less than $50,000 were paid a total of $29,606 (no names are disclosed on individual non-officer/ director/ trustee salaries of less than $50,000). Hoover reported just $2,999 in lobbying expenses ($164 grassroots, $2,835 direct), mostly wages, travel, and printing/postage. Total “Occupancy” expenses (rent paid to the Collingwood Presbyterian Church) were $1,106 for the year.

2003 was OCAGV’s first full year for operations. IRS records reveal $58,077 in income (all cash). $42,252 was paid to Toby Hoover. Another $58,521 was paid to other non-key employees (names not disclosed). “Occupancy” expenses were $3,258, indicating that the church is charging Hoover about $270 a month rent – quite a bargain for what Professor Patrick estimates were offices of 600 sq. ft. or more.

What Cost Propping Up the Phantom "Majority"?

As we have revealed, nearly three-quarters of one million dollars have flowed into this anti-gun organization in just four years, primarily through grants from the Joyce Foundation. Yet in the past three years, Hoover reported just $12,460 in lobbying expenses. What is the Joyce Foundation getting for its money? Perhaps the ONLY legislative victory Hoover could attempt to claim during the time she took all this money was in preventing a ban on inexpensive firearms in Toledo from sun-setting. The council was split 6-6, and Mayor Jack Ford broke the tie and extended the ban. This is not to say Hoover had anything to do with it, but yet it is the only area in which Hoover lobbied where a vote went her way.

Where are all these funds going? It is difficult to imagine WHAT she is doing with the money, and at first glance, perhaps even more difficult to understand what the Joyce Foundation is rewarding with each new grant. Hoover has taken so much money, and has so little to show for it. Yet we have no doubt the Joyce Foundation is pleased with their investment, which is intended for one purpose and one purpose alone - to make the abstract, invisible public Professor Patrick refers to come to life in the minds of the media and legislators.

"One of the things that Hoover does well is function as a press contact," Patrick observes, "and thus Hoover often shows up in press accounts." Indeed, Hoover has been quoted in newspapers across the state and around the nation. And in story after story, we see the media mimicking OCAGV press releases or letters to the editor by complaining about the "powerful gun lobby".

Gun rights advocacy is indeed a powerful force in directing public policy. But what is it that truly makes it so powerful?

Let’s go back to the DDN story referenced earlier. Although the reporter's overall effort seemed to suggest pro-gun money unfairly bought Ohio’s concealed carry law, the story did provided some excellent insight into the amazing grassroots effort that was the true reason politicians overwhelmingly supported CCW reform:

    Gun advocates...sent 11 times as many letters, faxes and e-mails to Gov. Bob Taft and called his office 3 1/2 times as much as opponents of the concealed-carry bill did. And gun-rights groups put the pressure on state leaders over the years by packing hearing rooms, holding demonstrations, and signing petitions.

    Simply put, they outgunned their opponents.

    "The volume was very intense. And that is on both sides. I'd say the proponents outweighed the opponents about two to one," said state Rep. Jim Aslanides, R-Coshocton, the sponsor of the concealed-carry bill that Taft signed into law.

And there it is. True grassroots constituency versus an abstract, invisible public. Again, from that same 2004 Dayton Daily News story:

    "The grass-roots effort, I would say, is the most important effort in the legislature because that causes representatives to be delegates of their district. They are hearing the call of the people back home," Aslanides said.

    Since Taft became governor in 1999, his office received 41,938 faxes, letters and e-mails from supporters of carrying concealed weapons and 3,732 faxes, letters and e-mails against it. Taft's office began tracking telephone calls on the issue in late 2000. Between 2001 and this week, his office received 5,910 calls for it and 1,664 calls against it.

    State Rep. Ed Jerse, D-Euclid, a vocal opponent of the concealed-carry bill, said the gun-rights grass-roots movement scares politicians because gun advocates can unleash a torrent of opposition in an election.

    "I think that people are more influenced by the grassroots mobilization — the fear that the group is going to target them in a race. It's very much a wedge issue, it's a swing issue, it's an issue that can influence the swing voters," Jerse said.

No matter how much money outside organizations throw at Toby Hoover to help her prop up the image of her abstract public, the truth is that pure grassroots activism is going to win the day every time. That's because the gun rights lobby is run bottom-up, by volunteers, and funded by small, individual donations. Even the venerable NRA is only “big” because it has 4 million members paying $35 per year. And its lobbying clout comes from its ability to fill congressional mailboxes, fax machines, and phone lines with messages from voters, not from big money or mystical powers.

Here in Ohio, this political action committee has always been and still is run 100% by volunteers, many of whom have given literally thousands of hours to protecting and improving our rights. On the other hand, as we have now seen, the “grassroots” anti-gun lobby, on the other hand, is run by salaried directors funded by mega-foundations. And that is why no matter how much money they throw at Toby Hoover, they'll never be able to buy a big enough curtain to prevent us from seeing the "wizard" and her megaphone.

Special thanks to Collin Rink and John Fenton, who contributed to this story.

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