The nation's top gun-control group is falling far short of its 2020 election spending pledge with less than two weeks to go before Nov. 3.
Despite promising to spend $60 million in 2020, Everytown for Gun Safety—founded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg and backed primarily by wealthy donors—has spent less than $26 million, according to Federal Election Commission records. Even with the cash on hand reported by the group in its latest filing, it will only be able to spend less than half of its goal without a massive cash injection before the election.
The latest filing for Everytown's super PAC, which has done nearly all of the group's political spending in 2020, shows the group had just over $4.6 million remaining in the bank on Oct. 15. It brought in just over $1 million—with over 85 percent coming from large donors—in September. However, even if the group repeated its best 2020 performance when it brought in a $7 million donation from former Microsoft CEO and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer in April, it would still be tens of millions of dollars short of its pledge.
When the group has bought advertising it has shied away from gun control. In ads targeting swing-state Republicans, the group has focused on issues like health care and energy production. The downturn in spending coupled with the messaging shift could signal that liberal donors and strategists believe gun control is not a winning 2020 issue—especially with recent record gun sales and a rush of new gun owners across the country.
"I'm not surprised," Joyce Malcolm, the Patrick Henry professor of constitutional law and the Second Amendment at George Mason University, told the Washington Free Beacon. "With calls to defund the police and a record-setting 11 million applications for purchase of guns in the first six months of this year (40 percent of which are first-time gun purchasers), Americans are more concerned with their safety and that of their families from violent riots and mayhem than gun control."
Everytown did not respond to a request for comment on its political activities, but the spending picture in late October is much grimmer than when it announced the $60 million goal in January. The group said it would spend double what it did in 2018 and even surpass the $50 million the National Rifle Association spent helping elect Donald Trump and other Republicans in 2016.
"The gun-safety movement has never been stronger or larger—and we're going to meet this moment with our most aggressive, well resourced, and grassroots-powered electoral program ever," Shannon Watts, founder of Everytown subsidiary Moms Demand Action, said when announcing the program.
Instead, Everytown is being outspent by the NRA. The NRA's PAC—which raised two-thirds of its haul from small donors—brought in more cash than Everytown in September. When combined with the NRA's super PAC, the gun-rights group had a roughly $3 million cash-on-hand advantage over Everytown as of October.