Removing guns from the pension might be more difficult than it seems

As Trenton lawmakers seek to exclude investments in gun manufacturers and distributors from the state’s pension, a study of the holdings in the $71 billion dollar fund shows just how hard “removing” guns from the state’s portfolio might be.

While the fund invests in no traditional gun makers it does invest in retail behemoths Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, which both sell firearms and likely would fall under the proposed ban.

But New Jersey’s pension also is the largest investor in the Outdoor Channel, owning close to 5 percent of the company.

While the Outdoor Channel generally steers clear of the political side of the gun-control debate, the channel is the recipient of National Rifle Association advertising dollars and runs a weekly show called “Friends of the NRA.”  The channel’s Website hosts NRA advertising as well as links to the pro-gun group’s trade show and to a 2011 letter from NRA President Wayne LaPierre to President Obama, rebutting the president’s stance on gun control.

But it’s not Outdoor Channel’s NRA connection that has gun control advocates fulminating.

Next week, stockholders in Outdoor Channel are expected to vote in favor of a merger with Intermedia  Outdoor Holdings, which operates The Sportsman Channel and 15 outdoor magazines including Guns & Ammo, Shotgun Times and Shooting News.

Unlike the Outdoor Channel, the Sportsman Channel weighs in heavily on Second Amendment issues and was the only network to air NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s live rebuttal to the president’s state of the union address.

The channel also was the only outlet to air the NRA advertisement that was critical of the president for opposing the group’s suggestion to put armed guards in schools even as the president’s own children enjoy Secret Service protection while they are in school.

That ad was roundly criticized by, among others, Gov. Chris Christie.

In addition, the network runs shows such as NRA News and NRA’s Guns and Gold.

The state’s pension fund is no stranger to Intermedia.

Since 2005, the fund has been invested in a Limited Partnership known as InterMedia Partners VII, which is the partnership that owns Intermedia Outdoor Holdings.  Currently, the investment in the private equity partnership is worth nearly $92 million.

Though the Intermedia and Outdoor Channel investments likely would not fall under a bill prohibiting the pension fund from investing in gun manufacturers, importers and distributors, Brian Miller, former Executive Director of Ceasefire New Jersey, said the state should dump them anyway.

“The citizens of New Jersey should not be investing in a  company that so heavily promotes the pro-gun agenda of the NRA and the gun manufacturers that it fronts,” Miller said.  “Wayne LaPierre is an anathema and the NRA is an anathema to a majority of New Jersyeans, especially after the recent statements pitching more gun sales to schools and it seems to me that it’s time for the those investments to be divested.”

But Democrats advocating for gun control may be shocked at a look under the hood of their own campaign finance accounts.

The owner of Intermedia is none other than Leo Hindery of YES Network fame.  Hindery is a heavy hitter in Democratic circles  who was once floated as a possible successor to then Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe.  Hindery also acted as Senior Economic Policy advisor for presidential candidate John Edwards and is an economic advisor to Obama.

Hindery has been a hefty donor to national Democrats over the years, pumping nearly $500,000 to candidates and committees since 2005, when he formed InterMedia.  Recipients of Hindery’s largesse include New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, considered to be one of the leading gun control proponents in the Senate.  Hindery also has been a major donor to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dumping nearly $80,000 into his campaigns for governor and attorney general.  In January, Cuomo signed one of the nation’s toughest gun control measures.

Hindery’s partner at InterMedia, Peter Kern, also has given heavily to Democrats over the years including $28,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2008 and $8,100 in 2006.

Hindery and his wife also has been heavy donors to state Democrats, contributing $66,000, including the Democratic State committee in the early part of the last decade.  Hindery donated $1,600 to state Republicans over the same time period.  All of those donations were prior to Hindery’s affiliation with InterMedia.

The junction of business and politics has at least one Outdoor Channel investor protesting the merger.  Andrew Franklin, President of UTR Investments, which owns about 2 percent of the stock in Outdoor Channel,  called Hindery the  “number one gun media tycoon” and is urging his fellow shareholders to vote no on the merger.

“Hindery is an intellectually dishonest Roger Ailes,”  Franklin said in an interview Monday.  “I think the pro-control folks are going to be ticked off that he is taking money and working with the NRA even if he is pro gun control.  How can he make money from the NRA and donate it to the folks who are trying to shut them down?”

Both Menendez and Lautenberg declined comment for this article.

"The governor still has to come to bat."
—Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, on Atlantic City.