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June 25, 2013

New York City's Special Counsel Registered as a Paid Lobbyist on Behalf of Bloomberg's 501c4 MAIG in Nevada

What's going on here?

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Michael Bloomberg had ramped up his gun control activism and started pressuring state governments to pass laws expanding background checks, among other measures.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — John W. Griffin is a fast-talking, whiskey-loving, fifth-generation Nevadan who spends his days as a lobbyist courting lawmakers in Stetsons. He advocates for luxury casinos, once brokered a dispute between a brothel and a nightclub, and has helped feuding families resolve tussles over cattle crossings.

Now he is representing the ultimate city slicker, Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, who, undaunted by defeat in Congress, is taking his campaign for stricter gun laws to the nation’s state capitals, including here, where a bill to expand the use of criminal background checks is before the State Legislature.

On Friday, after responding to my initial report on Mayor's Against Illegal Guns' use of New York City's government servers for their website and domain, Bloomberg's Press Secretary Marc La Vorgna pushed back with this:
Bloomberg spokesman Marc La Vorgna emails, saying Mayors Against Illegal Guns is not "a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization," as this article originally stated.

The group's "action fund" -- a separate entity -- is the 501(c)(4). But, as Haberman and Friess note in Politico, "The overlap between Bloomberg’s groups and the city are evident throughout the registration information for several of the websites associated with them."

In Nevada, Bloomberg set to influence a background check bill by registering and paying 13 lobbyists. As you can see here, they were lobbying on behalf of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund. This is the 501(c)(4) entity, not the 501(c)(3) one according to Press Secretary La Vorgna.

One of the paid lobbyists registered in Nevada was Christopher Kocher, who is (according to his LinkedIn profile), Director of Outreach and Special Counsel at Office of the Mayor of New York City.

It appears as if Bloomberg is paying an employee of the city (Special Counsel, no less) to lobby on behalf of his 501(c)(4) from that action fund, which last week was claimed to be entirely separate from the 501(c)(3) which was using the city's servers.

A couple questions:

1. How is this ethical?

2. How is this legal? It's possible it could be, but it certainly doesn't seem right.

I had trouble confirming last night that Christopher Kocher was still an employee, but it appears to be the case, as Maggie Haberman of Politico reports.

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posted by JohnE. at 08:45 AM

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