Morning Joe, 2/18/13, 7:00 PM ET

Bloomberg superPAC has Ill. congressional candidate on the defensive

Former Illinois Rep. Debbie Halvorson, a Democrat, is accusing a pro-gun reform superPAC funded by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg of targeting her because of...

Bloomberg super PAC tackles NRA with $2 million in Chicago race

Updated

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg super PAC is spending millions in a special election to replace Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago, a city shaken by gun violence where Bloomberg hopes to begin loosening the NRA’s choke-hold on elections nationwide.

Bloomberg’s super PAC, Independence USA, was founded late last year with aims of influencing elections based on the issues of gun control and same-sex marriage. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 26 dead in Connecticut, the PAC emerged as a particularly potent tool, adding funds and muscle to gun control candidates who have traditionally faced the ire of the NRA.

So far, Independence USA has spent $2.1 million in the Democratic primary, buying up TV ads endorsing former State Representative Robin Kelly, and attacking lead opponent Debbie Halvorson. The group has spent more than any candidate or organization in the primary.

Halvorson slammed the ads in a televised debate on Monday night, calling them “false and over the top” because she has not sought or received an endorsement by the NRA for the Democratic primary, but Halvorson has an A+ rating from the NRA.  In 2010, she was endorsed over a Republican opponent in a tough Congressional race, but still lost the election.

“Robin can say all she wants about this not buying a seat or influencing anybody, but when somebody endorses you and spends [$2.1] millions to endorse you and do this, who are you going to answer to when you get to Congress?” Halvorson said in Monday night’s debate. “This is ridiculous when somebody thinks they can buy a race. What’s next?”

Chicago, which has been riddled with gun violence,  is particularly fertile ground for Independence USA’s gun control agenda : A Chicago teen lost her life just hours after her younger sister attended President Obama’s speech on gun violence Friday, a fifteen-year-old honor student was killed a week after performing at Obama’s inauguration, they are among the hundreds of other children who have died in the last three years at the hands of gun violence.

In a Chicago Tribune editorial, the paper theorized that Bloomberg’s heavy spending is about setting an example for NRA supporters in future elections.

“Bloomberg is not interested merely in influencing a particular race. His spending is also about demonstrating to candidates across the country that the NRA is not the only group prepared to make an issue of gun control in political campaigns. It’s about proving that being associated with the NRA can be a liability, not an asset. It’s about creating a different political climate that could make sensible gun restrictions more achievable.”


The primary is scheduled for Feb. 26. The general election is April 9.

Watch an Independence USA ad below.

Bloomberg super PAC tackles NRA with $2 million in Chicago race

Updated