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NRA's ad campaign targets Bloomberg's push to unify advocates of gun control

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 8:30 p.m.
This combo made from file photos shows former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Climate change will exact enormous costs on U.S. regional economies in the form of lost property, reduced industrial output and higher health expenses, according to a report backed by Bloomberg, Paulson and Thomas F. Steyer, a former hedge fund manager. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON — The National Rifle Association is taking aim at former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation's biggest gun control advocates, in a new national ad campaign that seeks to paint the billionaire as an out-of-touch elitist.

NRA officials say the campaign, which kicks off Wednesday, is the first part of a multimillion-dollar push extending beyond November's elections to drive up negative perceptions of the magnate among voters. They've dubbed the effort, “Meet the Real Michael Bloomberg.”

Bloomberg, who left office in January, announced plans this year to spend $50 million to build a grassroots network of activists who feel strongly about reducing gun violence with a goal of beating the powerful gun rights group in political fights.

“Michael Bloomberg has declared war on the NRA and our 5 million members,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said in an e-mail. “We will not sit back and let him use his billions of dollars to impose his radical anti-freedom agenda on the American people.”

The ads, titled “Insult,” seek to tie Bloomberg's gun control initiatives to controversial steps he took as mayor, including his effort to ban the sale of jumbo-sized sugary sodas as part of an effort to curb obesity.

“Bloomberg tries to ban your snack food, your sodas and most of all, your guns,” a female narrator explains as a woman drives a large, red Chevy pickup through rural and suburban landscapes.

The commercial closes with this message: “Hey, Bloomberg: Keep your politics in New York. And keep your hands off our guns and our freedom.”

A version of the ad will air on broadcast TV stations in Colorado. The NRA plans digital ads in Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Nevada, Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia. All but one, Nevada, are home to key Senate races this fall.

The NRA will spend about $500,000 on the first round of ads, and officials plan to expand the campaign in coming weeks.

Bloomberg shows no sign of retreat.

“We've successfully linked several candidates that we helped defeat to the NRA,” Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said, listing unsuccessful contenders in recent House races in Illinois and California and the 2013 contest for attorney general in Virginia.

“This November, we will help defeat others who have made the mistake of aligning with the NRA,” he said.

Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent, is one of the most generous donors in this election cycle, contributing more than $9.4 million to federal political committees and candidates. Among his contributions: $2.5 million to the Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC linked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that is spending heavily to keep the chamber in Democratic hands. Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the chamber and the agenda on Capitol Hill.

Bloomberg's political operation has had some setbacks. In Wisconsin last week, pro-gun Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County won his Democratic primary despite Bloomberg spending against him.

Last September, voters in Colorado recalled two state senators for backing some of the nation's toughest gun control laws. Bloomberg helped push for the law and donated more than $300,000 to help the endangered lawmakers. In a July interview with Rolling Stone, Bloomberg described the recalled senators as coming from a part of Colorado so rural “I don't think there's roads.”

The new NRA ads use those words to argue that Bloomberg is out of touch with average Americans.

In the same interview, Bloomberg noted that the recently passed Colorado law — expanding background checks on private gun sales and imposing limits on the size of ammunition magazines — “is on the books and being enforced” despite the recalls.

“You can get depressed about the progress,” Bloomberg told the magazine, “but, on the other hand, you're saving a lot of lives.”

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