A CNN segment described recall elections that removed two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws from office as pitting an anti-recall billionaire against a pro-recall plumber "with no real money," ignoring hundreds of thousands of dollars of spending in favor of the recall by the National Rifle Association and other national groups.
On September 10, State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15 round limitation on firearm magazine size.
Introducing an interview with Giron, host Brooke Baldwin described the recall effort as "a war by proxy between gun control advocate Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire from New York and a Pueblo plumber by the name of Victor Head ... a political novice and a gun rights supporter with no real money to speak of here. And you know the end of the story here, the plumber won."
Baldwin said that the recalls were successful "despite the fact that Bloomberg's group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Giron's behalf" and also described the recall as "mega mega cash from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Mayor Bloomberg versus this grassroots effort" during a September 12 segment:
While Baldwin is correct that Head's organization, Pueblo Freedom and Rights, raised little, she ignored the fact that conservative groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of the recall effort.
The NRA reportedly intended to spend roughly $500,000 in support of the recall. Other out of state groups involved in support of the recall included the Koch brothers-backed Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity and the National Association for Gun Rights, a very well-funded player in the gun debate. While putting a dollar figure on how much the groups have spent is difficult because organizations active in the elections did not have to disclose the amounts they spent, AFP said it would involve its "67,000 activists across Colorado" and distributed a door-hanger that attacked Morse over his support for health care reform. NAGR ran an anti-Morse ad that depicted Bloomberg as a puppet-master controlling Morse.
During the segment, Giron was repeatedly interrupted by Baldwin as she tried to explain the election results in terms of poor voter turnout, a characteristic of the election that has received widespread coverage. Brooke dismissed these concerns, at one point interrupting Giron to state, "I'm going to cut you off right there, because if we talk voter suppression, I've read reports of lack of popularity on your behalf, let's just not go there, let's get to the meat of the story."
While media should not give the NRA credit for being a dominant political force (there is little evidence to that effect), it's simply false to portray the debate as one between national gun violence prevention advocates with "mega mega cash" and a "grassroots effort."