Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean” convicted of income tax evasion and other crimes, is famously said to have said “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”
The same sense of entitled grandeur – that rules apply to lesser beings – pervades the thinking of many high-profile gun-control notables. For example, ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is protected by guns carried by his armed security detail, while he spends his billions to undermine the Second Amendment rights of average Americans.
In 2006, as part of his anti-gun agenda, Bloomberg founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), a coalition of current and former mayors advocating for regulating all guns, not simply “illegal guns,” and calling for “assault weapon” and magazine bans, expanded background checks, and other restrictions on law-abiding gun owners.
By 2013, roiled by constant reports of criminal behavior by members, MAIG was subsumed into Bloomberg’s new gun control entity, Everytown for Gun Safety. Nonetheless, arrests and convictions of MAIG members (including for gun-related crimes) continue to feature regularly in the news, so much so that it’s become something of a running joke (here and here). It’s likely no coincidence that MAIG’s website chooses not to name the elected officials that make up its membership; instead, it lists the municipalities these members represent.
The roster of the recently disgraced include the ex-mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, who resigned from office in 2013 after multiple women made allegations of sexual harassment, and who subsequently plead guilty to charges of false imprisonment and battery. Another public official who had been associated with MAIG is Gordon Jenkins, formerly the mayor of Monticello, New York, who was removed from office by a state court in 2015 after it found he engaged in “‘unscrupulous conduct or gross dereliction of duty or conduct that connotes a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority.’” The misconduct referred to by the court included threats to withhold funding from his local police department in an effort to influence the disposition of criminal charges against him, and attempts to use his position to intimidate and coerce police officers into giving him special treatment after he was arrested for a DUI. Following his removal from office, Mr. Jenkins plead guilty to lesser criminal offenses after being charged with bribery-related felony crime.
Rounding out the MAIG dis-honor roll for 2017 (so far) are former Stockton, California mayor Anthony Silva; Allentown, Pennsylvania Mayor Edwin Pawlowski; and Vaughn Spencer, former mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania, all currently facing criminal charges. Of course, these individuals, like all persons simply accused of criminal offenses, are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
In March, ex-mayor Silva was arrested on felony charges of money laundering, embezzlement, and grand theft, arising out of alleged personal misuse of grants and other funds of the Stockton Kids Club, formerly the Boys & Girls Club of Stockton. (“Sour grapes,” claims his defense counsel, although Silva has figured in other controversies.) As an elected official and part of a MAIG coalition of California mayors, Mr. Silva supported legislation creating so-called “Gun Violence Restraining Orders” that would require persons to surrender their firearms to police based solely on allegations by law enforcement or family members.
Allentown, Pennsylvania Mayor Edwin Pawlowski was indicted in July, accused of violating federal public corruption laws arising out of a misuse of public office (over 50 counts, including bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services mail and wire fraud, travel act bribery, making material false statements, and conspiracy). Prior to that, Mayor Pawlowski appeared in a “public service” ad released by MAIG “demanding action” on gun control measures, and supported Bloomberg in calling for “tougher gun laws” and restrictions on gun shows and private firearm sales.
Vaughn Spencer, the former mayor of Reading, Pennsylvania, was also charged in July and accused of violating federal public corruption laws (bribery, wire fraud, and conspiracy). Like Mayor Pawlowski, Spencer signed on to a MAIG letter to President Obama in 2012, calling for bans on “military style” weapons and “high capacity” magazines, expanded background check laws, repealing the Tiahrt Amendments, and more.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) press releases regarding these two Pennsylvania officials note that the allegations concern the “mayors manipulating the levers of power for their own ways and means. As charged, Edwin Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer brazenly and repeatedly sold off city contracts to bankroll their political futures.” The DOJ adds that in “an astounding act of irony,” former Mayor Spencer allegedly “bribed the President of City Council to introduce legislation repealing a Reading anti-corruption statute.”
These are serious offenses – the charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services mail fraud, and honest services wire fraud have an individual maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; the remaining federal charges have maximum sentences of five or ten years and similarly onerous fines.
As part of furthering his notions of good governance, ex-Mayor Bloomberg has made a $32 million gift to Harvard University, funding a program to teach serving mayors how to be effective leaders, with the inaugural class of 40 elected officials beginning their studies this July. A cynic might suggest that the curriculum include, besides the usual Bloomberg hobbyhorses of sugary drinks and gun control, the fundamental concept that the rule of law applies to the high as well as the low. After all, when law-abiding Americans seek to protect themselves from criminals, it’s not usually the gun-grabbing crooks at city hall that come to mind.