Entertainment industry activists, some of them motivated into action after the Newtown shootings, on Wednesday slammed the Senate’s inability to pass gun background check measures, as progressive groups vowed to target Democrats who voted against the latest effort at gun control.
An amendment offered by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks failed when it received 54 votes, six short of the number needed to survive a filibuster. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been leading a push for stricter gun laws, called the vote “a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington.” He said that next year, a midterm election year, “our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don’t forget.”
It is unclear what will happen with an amendment offered by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) that calls for a comprehensive study of violence in videogames and other media, to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences. The Manchin-Toomey amendment also would have set up a national commission to study mass shootings, including a probe of the media culture of violence. Rockefeller supported the Manchin-Toomey proposal, but the fate of his own amendment depends on what happens to the overall gun legislation in the next few days, according to a spokesman for Rockefeller.
Meanwhile, the activists who push hard for the background checks — and advocate even stricter measures — expressed disappointment.
Tony Bennett, who helped launch an org, Voices Against Violence, pushing for gun control, urged his Twitter followers to call Senators who voted against the background checks. Bennett has appeared on HuffPostLive and in Washington media pushing for legislation, and, with his son, Danny, enlisted Paul McCartney, Gloria Estefan. Josh Groban and other figures in a text-to-call campaign to contact members of Congress.”We will not stop until our voices are heard,” Bennett said on Twitter.
Another activist pushing for gun control legislation, John Legend, wrote, “Shame on our Senate. Wow. Vote those cowards out next year.” Michael Moore tweeted an expletive.
A number of celebrities appeared in ads in December for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, while Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and others appeared in a Demand a Plan PSA calling for new legislation. Those spots, sponsored by Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Gun Violence, drew counter-cries of hypocrisy from run rights advocates, who produced a YouTube video showing some of the celebrities appearing in violent movie scenes.
Courage Campaign, the Los Angeles progressive org led by Rick Jacobs, launched an effort shortly after the vote to encourage donors to withhold money from Democrats who voted no. They include Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also voted no, but it was a procedural vote to ensure that the legislation could be reintroduced.
Begich, Pryor and Baucus face reelection next year. Begich and Baucus have collected significant amounts from TV, movie and music sources in their careers, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with Begich collecting $165,000 and Baucus raising $447,000.
Lara Bergthold, a principal with Griffin Schein public affairs firm, whose clients include Rob Reiner and Norman Lear, said that donors generally understand that moderate Democratic senators in Republican-leaning states have to make votes “that reflect the views of their constituents.” But the votes against the gun control measures were essentially votes to prevent them from getting to the floor, where they stand a better chance of passing by simply majority.
“I think where [donors] draw the line is a Democrat voting for a filibuster and not even allowing a vote on it,” she said. “…We are a large tent, but Democrats who can’t support bringing a vote to the floor ought not to be in the Senate.”
She predicted that it will be “much harder” for the “no” voting Democrats to raise money from industry sources in their races next year.