Independence USA PAC, a super PAC created and bankrolled by Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, says its aim is to elect candidates with a “focus on issues including gun laws, the environment, education policy and marriage equality” and support “efforts to crack down on illegal guns and reform education policy.” But this week it launched an ad campaign in support of a vulnerable freshman U.S. senator who has almost always opposed Bloomberg’s positions on climate, guns, and marriage equality.
In the endorsement on Monday, Bloomberg praised Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) for his “pragmatic leadership in Washington.” It noted that Toomey “crossed party lines to lead the fight to reduce gun violence in America by co-sponsoring legislation to close the background check loophole,” when he worked with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “to try and broker a compromise that would close the gun-show loophole and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally infirm.”
On Wednesday, the super PAC released a 30-second ad praising Toomey for having “crossed party lines twice: first to support background checks and now to stop gun sales to suspects on the terror watch list.
Watch the ad:
But the suggestion that Toomey’s been an ally on gun violence is highly misleading. While Toomey did co-author a scaled-down compromise background check proposal in 2013, in the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse shootings in June, he joined with his party and the National Rifle Association to vote against closing the gun show loophole. And while he did back an unsuccessful compromise proposal on the terror watch list, he did so only after opposing a stronger version.
Moreover, Toomey’s most recent rating from the NRA , announced in 2010, was an “A,” reflecting his strong support for the group’s agenda during his tenure in the House of Representatives. His campaign website section on “Second Amendment Rights” also states that “Pat is a strong supporter of our constitutionally protected Second Amendment rights, and he has earned high marks from pro-Second Amendment organizations. In the U.S. Senate, Pat has voted against laws that place restrictions on gun ownership, and he cosponsored the Constitutional Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act that would protect concealed carry privileges across state lines.” Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns has taken the opposite position on many of these issues.
Toomey has been even worse on the issues of marriage equality and climate change.
As a Congressman, co-sponsored a proposed 2004 constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage. Even after Pennsylvania became a marriage-equality state, he voted against equal benefits for same-sex spouses of veterans. And even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling brought marriage equality to all 50 states, Toomey released a statement reminding voters, “I have also long supported the traditional definition of marriage.” Bloomberg was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage rights, noting in 2011, “On matters of freedom and equality, history has not remembered obstructionists kindly. Not on abolition. Not on women’s suffrage. Not on workers’ rights. Not on civil rights. And it will be no different on marriage rights.”
Toomey has also repeatedly denied that climate change is significantly caused by humans. “My view is: I think the data is pretty clear. There has been an increase in the surface temperature of the planet over the course of the last 100 years or so. I think it’s clear that that has happened. The extent to which that has been caused by human activity I think is not as clear. I think that is still very much disputed and has been debated,” he said in 2010. Last January, he even voted against a non-binding resolution that simply stated that it was the “sense of Congress that — (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Bloomberg, on the other hand, has served as the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and has higlighted climate change as one of the most serious threats to our environment.
Bloomberg has also been a strong supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, which Toomey opposed. Toomey’s recently pushed for Congress to defund cities that do not enforce federal immigration law — cities like New York under Bloomberg.
Toomey’s Democratic opponent Katie McGinty notes on her own campaign website that she fully supports LGBT equality and backs immediate action to address climate change. She has also criticized Toomey for not doing enough to address gun violence.
A Bloomberg spokesman told ThinkProgress in an email that “In the wake of Newtown, Pat Toomey was the first Republican Senator to stand up and agree to cross the aisle and cosponsor Joe Manchin’s bill closing the background check loophole. Pat Toomey and Mike Bloomberg don’t agree on everything — to say the least — but he was there when we needed him after Newtown and that is deserving of support.”
In a Toomey campaign press release highlighting the endorsement, Bloomberg is quoted saying, “Chances are that no candidate is ever going to be perfect for you on every issue, but when brave people buck party orthodoxy and demonstrate bold, pragmatic leadership, they deserve support from all of us.” Still, it seems odd that Bloomberg would back someone who has fiercely opposed his agenda almost every time.
This post has been updated to include a statement from Bloomberg’s spokesman.