Guess they're maybe gun-shy

The Baltimore Sun

MSNBC has seen fit to protect the American public from this political shocker: All three presidential candidates agree on something.

The network is refusing to air a new TV ad that reminds Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama that they've all spoken in favor of closing a loophole that allows criminals to buy guns at gun shows.

Too "controversial," MSNBC told Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group behind the ad. ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox are all airing it.

The MSNBC decision is of local interest because, as I wrote the other day, Sheila Dixon is one of four mayors featured in the ad. Not to mention because Baltimore police seized almost 4,000 illegal guns last year.

"We don't accept controversial issue advertising," MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines told Politico, which first reported the network's decision. (I tried to reach Gaines myself, but he did not respond to messages seeking comment.)

The pro-ad camp has reacted with people-have-a-right-to-know outrage -- and puzzlement.

While the presidential hopefuls would rather avoid the topic of guns, the spot is hardly Swift-Boat edgy. It shows clips of all three candidates saying they support closing the loophole. Then four mayors -- each supports a different candidate, except for undecided Michael Bloomberg of New York-- urge them to make it happen.

Yes, the ad aims to hold the candidates' feet to the fire. But we're talking six bipartisan feet.

"It's amazing because how can you call something 'controversial' when all three candidates" have supported it?" said John Feinblatt, criminal justice coordinator for Bloomberg, who leads the mayors group. "The only thing that should shock people is that it [the loophole] hasn't been closed."

Said Dixon spokesman Sterling Clifford: "The ad is not critical of any of the candidates. I honestly don't understand the hangup about it."

Hey, this new job isn't a joke

One of the researchers who worked on Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them has found new employment, as a speechwriter for Martin O'Malley.

Steve Rabin comes to the governor's staff directly from the National Jewish Democratic Council, where he was communications director. But back in 2003, Rabin was part of a team of researchers who helped the former Saturday Night Live actor and current U.S. Senate candidate from Minnesota do the digging for the book. Franken even gave him a shout out on page 371: "Passionate, committed ... with a great sense of humor."

He'll need the sense of humor. That and an RFK quote book.

Mr. Jefferson, go back to sleep

In a Web ad urging voters not to mess with the Constitution, Marylanders United to Stop Slots splices grand Founding Fathers prose with crass Sin City come-ons.

As in, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union and establish SLOT MACHINE GAMBLING throughout the state of Maryland." And, "All men are created equal, possessing certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of SLOT MACHINE GAMBLING."

Funny. But the "We the People" stuff is from the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The "all men are created equal" bit is from the Declaration of Independence.

Neither document is at risk if Maryland goes Vegas.

Did the ad-makers goof up? Or did they quote the other texts because the Maryland Constitution isn't memorable in that Schoolhouse Rock kinda way?

(I suspect the latter, since it kicks off with the non-toe-tappable, "We, the People of the State of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty, and taking into our serious consideration the best means of establishing a good Constitution in this State for the sure foundation and more permanent security thereof.")

The pro-slots camp figured it was a flub, and had some chuckles over it. I asked Fred Puddester, the Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman and JHU budget officer who is leading the pro-slots campaign, if slots foes had the wrong constitution.

"They didn't even get a constitution," he said. "It was the Declaration of Independence -- 'unalienable rights' --as I remember from fifth grade."

Marylanders United said it was "creative license," not a goof.

"Yes, as soon as The Wire ended, we all started watching John Adams so we are well aware of the Declaration of Independence," the group said in a written statement. "We think it's important to have a little fun while educating voters about the very serious consequences of amending Maryland's Constitution to allow slots. What isn't fun is that the pro-slots crowd have nothing more than petty complaints and personal attacks."

If they took it all to Atlantic City ...

How much money will it take to sell Maryland on slots? About $15 million. At least that's the fundraising goal that pro-slots forces have set for themselves, according to state business leaders who have been briefed on the effort.

I bounced that figure off Puddester.

"The only budget I worry about is how this thing impacts the state budget," said Puddester, who was state budget secretary under former Gov. Parris Glendening. "We'll do fundraising. I'm focused more on the implications on the state budget. I'm boring that way."

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