North Palm Republican mega-donor issues ultimatum on assault weapons

Al Hoffman Jr., a North Palm Beach real estate developer and major Republican donor, is cutting off donations to candidates who do not support a ban on assault weapons, according to a report in the New York Times.

Hoffman said he would urge other Republican donors to support an assault weapons ban, according to the report. Hoffman announced the ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott. Hoffman has donated millions of dollars to Republican candidates and causes of the years.

A critic of President Trump, Hoffman supported Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential campaign and donated more than $1 million to Right to Rise, a “super PAC” that supported Bush’s brief candidacy, according to the report.

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

Hoffman said he would like to see 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.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Parkland school shooting

The loss of Hoffman’s support could be especially harmful to Scott, who is considering a Senate bid this year. After the Parkland shooting, Scott, who has not made gun control a priority, said “everything is on the table.”

During an interview with CNN on Sunday evening, Hoffman said he “loves” Scott and hopes he runs for Senate.  He said he would try to persuade Scott to support a ban. If Scott does not, Hoffman said he could not “in good conscience” contribute to Scott’s campaign.  

As for the substantial financial clout of the National Rifle Association, Hoffman added: “Who cares about the NRA. They’re not my party. I don’t care what they do.”

Another Florida Republican who stands to lose Hoffman’s support is U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, a Palm City Republican whose district includes northern Palm Beach County. Mast received $5,950 in NRA money.

RELATED: Students urge gun controls: ‘It’s harder to buy a puppy than an AR-15’

Hoffman, who has a history of speaking his mind, has threatened to cut donations before. 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 gun issues, Hoffman made the comment after most Senate Republican and a few red-state Democrats blocked legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers.

Hoffman alluded to past mass shootings in his email after the deaths of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. He said future gun massacres are inevitable without government intervention, according to the New York Times report.

Trump to talk gun control with students this week 

“If we go from Orlando to Las Vegas, and now Parkland, you just have to know that there are others around the country just dreaming about staging another mass murder.”

Republican lawmakers in Florida have pushed back on gun control initiatives, despite the state being the site of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando — the second-worst mass shooting in U.S. history that left 49 dead. Only the October shooting at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas claimed more lives, with 58 killed.

The day after the Parkland shooting last week, Senate President Joe Negron said his interest would be focused on improving school safety and access to mental health treatment – not restricting gun laws.

“My focus is on making sure that lawful citizens who are obeying the law and entitled to their constitutional rights have appropriate access to firearms,” Negron said.

Although several gun bills were introduced during the state’s ongoing legislative session, the only one likely to pass — HB 1419 and its companion SB 1048 — expands the rights of a licensed person to carry a concealed weapon inside a church or other house of worship.

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