Senate President Bill Galvano went on the defensive Sunday night after being attacked by Donald Trump Jr., U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz and Andrew Pollack for campaign contributions he accepted from Mike Bloomberg‘s pro-gun control political committee in 2018.
“Any supposed ‘Republican’ who proudly accepts money from Mini Mike Bloomberg and is supportive of his gun control agenda is nothing more than a stone cold RINO,” Trump Jr. told The Daily Wire. “The last thing Florida Republicans need is a liberal, gun-grabbing Bloomberg minion leading them in the State Senate.”
With that type of strong statement, coming from within President Donald Trump‘s innermost circle, the criticism at least initially took on the tone of what effectively could have become a party purge effort of Galvano. And Trump Jr.’s comments attracted more, notably from Gaetz and Pollack.
Galvano responded with a statement of commitment to Trump and rejection of Bloomberg. Gaetz later offered a more conciliatory view toward Galvano.
Galvano’s decision to accept those contributions became fresh fodder after a Florida Senate panel Monday unanimously signed off on a far-reaching measure that would close the gun-show “loophole,” create a record-keeping system for private gun sales and set aside $5 million to establish a “statewide strategy for violence prevention.”
The proposal (SB 7028) is a priority of Galvano, as evidenced by the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee’s consideration and passage of the measure the day before the 2020 Legislative Session begins.
But while Galvano supports the legislation, the National Rifle Association does not.
The measure contains “the worst universal background check language I have ever seen,” Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist and a former president of the national gun-rights organization, told the legislative panel.
With the NRA galvanizing its members in opposition to the the legislation, Awr Hawkins, a columnist for Breitbart, over the weekend reheated the story of Galvano’s receipt of the Bloomberg contributions. After that, the president’s eldest son lambasted Galvano for accepting the donations.
As his Twitter timeline began to fill-up with tweets and retweets of the Trump, Jr. salvo, Galvano responded to the criticism.
“I do not support Michael Bloomberg’s campaign for challenging President Donald Trump and I am working to make sure that President Trump is re-elected,” Galvano said in a statement to Florida Politics.
“The legislation we passed in the Florida Senate was in response to a horrific shooting at a high school that rocked all Floridians to our core,” Galvano said.
Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 that left 17 victims dead and 17 injured, the Senate President led a majority of Republicans and two Democrats to pass school safety legislation. Then-Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker José Oliva also backed the proposal (SB 7026), now law.
But the final product, which included $400 million to provide students with more access to mental health services and opened school districts to a program to arms school staff, was watered down from the original bill. The ultimate legislation also included three-day waiting periods and banning bump stocks.
The NRA filed a federal lawsuit against the state immediately after Scott signed the bill into law.
And after the funds from Bloomberg’s committee came to light, Hammer wrote that Galvano rammed the legislation down the throats of lawmakers in a letter to NRA supporters.
“Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” Hammer wrote. “All of this while the anti-gunners keep accusing legislators of taking money from NRA. In reality, no Florida Senate or House member or candidate for the Florida Senate or House has received a direct contribution from NRA in almost 20 years.”
Galvano has said repeatedly he would not apologize for accepting the funds and that he was “grateful for the support” from Bloomberg.
“After that legislative action, we received support from many who wanted to see Republican governance continue last election cycle,” Galvano said. “And I am proud to say that, at the helm of Senate campaigns last cycle, we were successfully able to maintain Republican control of the Senate. That support elected Republicans, and one thing Don Jr. and I will absolutely always agree on is our support to re-elect President Donald Trump, and I proudly support that joint effort.”
Bloomberg, a former New York City Mayor, entered the fray for the Democratic presidential nomination in November to challenge the President.
But it wasn’t just Trump, Jr. who entered the fray over this issue. Gaetz retweeted a link to the Breitbart column Friday.
“Republicans. Taking money from Bloomberg. In Florida. To pass gun control. No. No. No,” the Pensacola-area Republican tweeted.
Republicans. Taking money from Bloomberg. In Florida. To pass gun control.
No. No. No. https://t.co/sRWmYDLJtT
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) January 18, 2020
And Pollack, a gun rights advocate whose daughter, Meadow, died in the Parkland shooting, tweeted out the Breitbart article Saturday, writing “Democrats exploited the murder of my daughter. I never imagined a Republican would do the same, but that’s exactly what Bill Galvano did He took $500,000 from Bloomberg & tried to reinstate disgraced Sheriff Scott Israel This boils my blood! #FixIt”
Democrats exploited the murder of my daughter.
I never imagined a Republican would do the same, but that’s exactly what Bill Galvano did
He took $500,000 from Bloomberg & tried to reinstate disgraced Sheriff Scott Israel
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) January 19, 2020
In a separate tweet the day before, he uploaded a screenshot showing the two donations.
Florida Senate President @BillGalvano is bought and paid for by Michael Bloomberg.
He’s accepted over $500k from Bloomberg’s anti-gun PAC.
He’s constantly working against Governor Desantis and the Republican Party.
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) January 17, 2020
By the end of Sunday, Gaetz acknowledged Galvano’s support for Republicans and the President in a statement to Florida Politics. He added that he hoped the Senate President would help enact “Trump’s policies, including the DeSantis E-Verify Plan.”
“Sen. Galvano can understand why some are concerned that he has received so much support from Bloomberg and backed gun control lite,” Gaetz said.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.