The taxpayers of the city of New York will help finance a renewed push to enact gun control measures at the state and federal level, according to a city employee involved in the effort.
Brina Milikowsky, a policy adviser to both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his gun control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), said on Wednesday that MAIG will increase pressure on both federal and state lawmakers to enact additional firearms restrictions.
Milikowsky, who draws a salary from New York taxpayers, told a crowd at the Center for American Progress’s Make Progress summit in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that she "do[es] legislative advocacy, primarily."
She will work in that capacity to push legislators to enact new gun control measures this fall and winter.
"We want to give Congress hell during the August recess when they’re home," she said.
Milikowsky’s extensive involvement in MAIG’s advocacy work concerned some observers who say it amounts to taxpayer funding for an interest group’s lobbying campaign.
"It's clearly unethical for Mayor Bloomberg to use a taxpayer-funded staffer from his office to promote his anti-Second Amendment group's lobbying," Ken Boehm, co-founder of the National Legal and Policy Center, an ethics watchdog group, said.
Milikowsky would not comment on the propriety of the arrangement. John McCarthy, a New York City Hall spokesman, defended her and Bloomberg in an emailed statement.
"The Mayor’s top priority is keeping New Yorkers safe and that includes seeking sane gun laws in other states and D.C. to help reduce the flow of illegal guns to New York," McCarthy said.
"Brina Milikowsky has played a part in that effort—and the results have been very good," he added.
The Senate’s failure to pass a gun control bill in April dispirited many activists, but Milikowsky insists it moved the ball forward on the gun control issue.
"We counted twenty senators that would not have voted for this a year ago," she claimed. "That is a huge shift in the mindset and the leadership of people in this town."
MAIG worked with Congress to draft the Manchin-Toomey gun control proposal. "I’ve been lobbying Congress on this issue since then," Milikowsky said.
The federal lobbying disclosure database has no record of Milikowsky registering as a lobbyist. A MAIG spokesperson did not respond to inquiries on that point.
MAIG also "worked closely" with the White House to draft a series of executive actions intended to crack down on gun ownership if Congress failed to act.
Milikowsky said the gun control movement "is light years away from where we were in November" despite Manchin-Toomey’s failure.
Meaningful action on the issue will likely happen on the state level, she said: "We need to be so much better and more organized and effective at stopping terrible legislation in statehouses."
To that end, Milikowsky said, MAIG "will be doing a lot of state legislative activity starting in the winter."
Watchdogs have also raised ethical concerns when it was revealed that MAIG’s website is hosted on web servers owned by the city.
"Lobbying groups, no matter how laudable the cause they advocate for, should maintain and host their own websites," John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany, told BuzzFeed at the time.
"If a web page is part of a mayoral or city initiative, it should be clearly labeled with the NYC logo so the public understands it belongs to their city government," he added. "If something isn’t a city initiative, its website shouldn’t be maintained and hosted by the city."
Milikowsky said MAIG "will continue to push the envelope" in its drive for additional firearm restrictions.
That attitude irked Boehm. "What could be more arrogant than forcing the over-taxed residents of New York City to pay for the salary of someone to pressure state and federal legislators on the billionaire mayor's pet projects?"