North Palm Republican mega donor expands gun control campaign

4:47 p.m Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018 Nation & World
Republican mega-donor Al Hoffman Jr.

The response to an email ultimatum that Republican mega-donor Al Hoffman Jr. sent to half a dozen leaders last week about closing his checkbook to candidates who do not support “reasonable” gun control has been so successful that he intends to send a similar letter to the state’s 4.5 million registered Republicans, asking them to do the same.

“I’ve received over 1,000 tweets and emails from all over the country,” Hoffman said. “All in favor.”

Hoffman, 83, is a North Palm Beach real estate developer and major Republican donor. Last week, he appeared on CNN and several other national news programs after The New York Times published an article about the email ultimatum he sent to Gov. Rick Scott, former Gov. Jeb Bush and other Republicans.

“I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” Hoffman wrote in the email. “Enough is enough.”

COMPLETE COVERAGE: The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Hoffman said he spoke to other large donors and some politicians last week who agree to back “reasonable” gun legislation. Hoffman defines “reasonable” as the return of a previous federal assault weapons ban, enacted in 1994 under a Democratic administration and Congress. That bill lapsed in 2004 while Republicans were in control of Washington.

Hoffman has a history of speaking his mind and has previously threatened to cut donations over assault weapons. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post in 2013, Hoffman said he would be reluctant to raise money for candidates who do not support “reasonable” gun control. The same year, Hoffman wrote a letter to former House Speaker John Boehner urging him to also support gun measures.

Hoffman, a former Republican National Committee finance chair and ambassador to Portugal, further rankled Republicans in 2013 when he said President Barack Obama was “right on the issue of gun control,” Hoffman made the comment after most Senate Republicans and a few red-state Democrats blocked legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Valentine’s Day — that left 17 students and teachers dead — affected Hoffman on a personal level. Hoffman’s company, WCI, developed much of Parkland between 1995-2005.

“I watched the high school being built,” Hoffman said. “I was there for the dedication and opening.”

Hoffman is no stranger to assault weapons, either. As a graduate of West Point and fighter pilot in the Air Force, Hoffman said he learned how to shoot rifles, rockets and cannons and earned expert ratings with automatic rifles and machine guns.

“Assault rifles were designed for the military and designed specifically to kill,” Hoffman said. “What in the hell are we doing with them in our hands?”

As for arming teachers and school staff, Hoffman said he is not opposed as long as they are properly trained. But he will not budge on assault weapons.

“This is going to be my mission,” Hoffman said. “It may be my last hurrah.”