Columbus Mayor, Liberal Groups Worked to Block Gun Rights Bill in Ohio Legislature
by Jesse Hathaway
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman's office worked with liberal activists and employees of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to block a gun rights bill in the Ohio General Assembly, public records obtained by Media Trackers show. Media Trackers has previously reported on the groups' coordination to use shooting deaths for political gain.
Senate Bill 17, signed into law by Governor John Kasich in June 2011, was written to bring Ohio's gun regulations in line with those found in 42 other states, expanding the number of places where citizens were permitted to carry firearms. Opponents of the bill made hyperbolic predictions about the bill's consequences, including a warning from now-disgraced Representative Clayton Luckie that bar patrons would begin shooting bartenders over the strength of their drinks.
Coleman spokesman Daniel Williamson suggested in a Media Trackers interview that Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) and Coleman staffer R. Lee Roberts were not involved in lobbying legislators against the legislation. However, internal emails show that not only was Williamson aware of MAIG's active opposition to the bill, Williamson himself assisted in lobbying efforts.
In a May 2012 interview with Media Trackers, Williamson claimed "there are different levels of the gun debate," arguing that MAIG is – as the group's name suggests – only opposed to illegal guns.
"For example, there was a controversial law that was passed about guns in bars," Williamson said. "That actually is not a situation that MAIG had a real interest in, because that was not about illegal guns, that was about guns."
Contrary to Williamson's claims, public record proves Roberts – working in Coleman's office as the Ohio coordinator of MAIG – spent months agitating against House Bill 45, the Ohio House version of the gun law. Supported by the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, Roberts and Bloomberg staffer Janey Rountree worked with Bret Thompson of union-funded leftist group ProgressOhio to stymie the bill.
Roberts, with Rountree's approval, began working in May 2011 to target seven Republican representatives who MAIG and its partners felt could be swayed to oppose the affirmation of Second Amendment rights in Ohio.
Roberts assessed that the bill was not "a slam dunk in our State House," and the groups sought to create the appearance of a public outcry using a "patch through" phone campaign. A "patch through" is a computer-assisted telemarketing call which dials an individual's number, instructs the individual is to state opposition or support for an issue, and then forwards the call to the office of the politician.
The anti-gun groups targeted Speaker of the House William Batchelder as well as Representatives Marlene Anielski, Nan Baker, Rex Damschroder, Sean Duffey, Anne Gonzales, Casey Kozlowski, and Gerald Stebelton. Roberts noted that most of the representatives resided in "swing districts" and as such might be amenable to overlooking conservative principles.
Roberts described Anielski as a "former member of MAIG" who "dropped out when she ran for state rep," claiming she was never an official MAIG member. However, Anielski's rating from the pro-Second Amendment non-profit group Buckeye Firearms Association is "A," significantly higher than most of the targeted legislators.
Although MAIG spent $6,246 on its telephone campaign, the bill progressed through the General Assembly more quickly than expected. On June 15, 2011, Baker, Duffey, and Stebelton voted with a 56-39 minority opposing Senate Bill 17.
As the bill was finalized for signing by Governor Kasich, MAIG and its partners shifted gears in their opposition. Upcoming Media Trackers coverage will detail attempts by Coleman's office, Bloomberg staff, and Ohio liberal groups to block the pro-Second Amendment legislation by pressuring Governor Kasich for a veto.
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Editors note: The story on Media Trackers has links to the actual emails and other supporting information.