A staffer at left-wing Media Matters for America committed numerous felonies in the District of Columbia and around the country by carrying a firearm to defend the organization’s founder, David Brock, The Daily Caller has learned.
According to a knowledgeable source, multiple firearms used to protect the Media Matters founder were purchased with Brock’s blessing — and apparently with the group’s money.
TheDC has previously reported that Brock’s one-time aide, Haydn Price-Morris, carried a concealed Glock handgun as he traveled with the liberal leader to public events in Washington, D.C. (RELATED: Sources, memos reveal erratic behavior, Media Matters’ close coordination with White House and news organizations)
But the extent of Brock’s armed activities have been largely unknown until now, even among those closest to him. An array of current and former Media Matters sources, all with intimate knowledge about the inner workings of the organization, granted extensive interviews to TheDC.
Brock, whose struggles with mental health have seen him hospitalized in the past, became increasingly concerned by late 2010 that he was being targeted by right-wing assassins.
TheDC has learned that by that time, Brock had armed his assistant — who had no permit to carry a concealed firearm — with a Glock handgun.
According to an internal email exchange obtained by TheDC, the gun was purchased with cash in Maryland, likely to diminish the chances such a purchase would appear on the tax-exempt group’s books.
Between Price-Morris’ early 2009 arrival and late 2010 departure from Media Matters, he also acquired a shotgun for Brock’s protection.
Price-Morris was regularly armed when accompanying Brock on trips around the country, according to a source, and his firearm possession in Washington, D.C. constituted multiple felonies.
On at least one occasion, Brock — accompanied by his armed aide — visited California to attend a “Democracy Alliance” summit of major Democratic donors and lawmakers.
That gathering included such major figures in Democratic politics as billionaires George Soros, Peter Lewis and Bill Benter, former Service Employees International Union Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger, and the politician behind the federal government’s 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban,” California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
On Thursday, Feinstein re-introduced a new version of the ban which would reinstate and greatly expand the law, which expired in 2004. Reached Thursday, a spokesman for Feinstein did not respond to a request for comment related to the senator’s attendance, alongside Brock and Price-Morris, at the Democracy Alliance meeting.
Spokespersons for Soros and Benter did not reply to emailed requests for comment.
It’s unclear if Price-Morris was carrying his Media Matters-supplied Glock to that Democracy Alliance summit, but a well-placed source told TheDC he was carrying a concealed weapon at the event.
Brock’s aide was a “gun enthusiast,” according to the source, and often selected a weapon from his personal collection of firearms that would suit a given occasion and his taste. Price-Morris would occasionally carry a separate Glock that he owned personally, one with a high-capacity magazine — 17-rounds — if his outfit was loose enough to conceal the weapon.
Media Matters had reason to be concerned about news of its use of firearms becoming public. (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s complete coverage of Media Matters for America)
Aside from risking the disapproval or outrage of disenchanted anti-gun donors, it appears Media Matters personnel may have committed several serious crimes.
“If he carried it in DC, that’s a felony,” Stephen Halbrook, a D.C.-area lawyer with more than 35 years of experience practicing gun law nationwide, confirmed to TheDC.
“Any weapon [with] over 10 rounds is illegal under D.C. law,” said Halbrook of Price-Morris’ 17-round-capacity Glock. “And this is for mere possession. If you have a gun that’s unregistered, that’s another felony by the way.”
“If you’re carrying it around, you’re committing two crimes: one, the crime of carrying the firearm, and two, having it unregistered — the status of it being unregistered. Both of those would be felonies,” he explained.
“And then the ammunition can be a separate charge: If you don’t have a registered gun, then you can’t have ammunition in D.C.”
For carrying a fully-loaded Glock in Washington without a permit, Price-Morris “could be looking at some substantial prison time because if we use the low-end felony sentence of five years, you could get five years for the non-registration, five for the carrying, and then [more for] the second offenses of the magazine being over 10 rounds and then the cartridges,” said Halbrook.
Halbrook said Brock also risks facing criminal charges.
It could be considered a criminal “conspiracy,” Halbrook explained, “if they set up this arrangement and everything that was done was illegal. Then they would be a conspirator, or maybe an aider or abettor of a crime.”
Aside from Brock and Price-Morris, few at Media Matters knew Brock had armed his aide, according to multiple Media Matters sources.
One source described Brock as “very shy,” explaining that while Price-Morris was there, he rarely confided in anyone outside of his aide and two other people: then-Media Matters president Eric Burns and Brock’s longtime fundraiser, Mary Pat Bonner.
Burns has since started his own public relations firm and would not respond to TheDC’s requests for comment.
Bonner, who sources say now shares office space with Brock inside Media Matters, also did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Whether they were aware of the guns or not, Media Matters sources viewed Price-Morris as “very protective” of Brock.
Reflecting on an incident — previously reported by TheDC — where Price-Morris whisked his boss from the roof of Media Matters’ Washington headquarters for fear of “snipers,” one former staffer said Brock’s aide was “a strange kind of guy.”
“I think he [Price-Morris] worried more about David’s security than David worried about it,” she said.
She was one of several sources that expressed displeasure with Price-Morris’ demeanor, calling him a “loose cannon.”
“Haydn was another one of those people that nobody in the office really got along with,” she said.
He was “arrogant,” agreed another source, who said Price-Morris exuded a “sense of entitlement” exceptional even for Washington, D.C.
Many of Brock’s senior employees claim they were caught completely by surprise when in late 2010, staffers became aware of Price-Morris’ gun after he revealed his concealed weapon to a female employee.
One former senior employee told TheDC the Media Matters staff was “shocked” to learn of the gun. Another said the in-house reaction was “like, ‘Holy shit!’ It was so beyond what was acceptable.”
Speaking to TheDC, multiple Media Matters staffers described an atmosphere of confusion surrounding why Price-Morris had a gun when so much of the liberal organization’s work was aimed at restricting the public’s access to firearms.
In the aftermath of the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Media Matters has been on the gun control warpath, commissioning hundreds of pieces supportive of restrictions on firearms.
As one source put it, Brock was “terrified” that the gun story would get out.
“George Soros and a lot of groups connected to gun control are funding this group, and they wouldn’t be too happy that an employee of Media Matters was carrying a gun, especially when it was illegal in D.C.,” said the source.
The Joyce Foundation, a Chicago-based philanthropy whose board of directors included Barack Obama from 1994 to 2002, awarded $400,000 to Media Matters for “a gun and public safety issue initiative” in 2010 — the same year the staff learned of Price-Morris’ gun. (RELATED: Left-wing foundations lavish millions on Media Matters)
A spokeswoman for the Joyce Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.
Likewise, the David Bohnett Foundation — started by Geocities co-founder David Bohnett — gave Media Matters $75,000 between 2010 and 2011, specifically for “gun safety” operations.
Foundation executive director Michael Fleming declined to comment for this report.
One former Media Matters staffer expressed disbelief that Brock could have approved of Price-Morris carrying a concealed weapon. “I can’t imagine David wouldn’t have known this wasn’t the type of thing that wouldn’t blow up in his face,” the source explained.
Despite Brock’s knowledge of the guns, his organization successfully laid the blame for the lapse in judgment at Price-Morris’ feet, and he was quickly let go.
Price-Morris disappeared from Washington, D.C. not long after, moving with his wife from their Annapolis, Md. home to Jersey City, N.J. — but not before returning the guns to Media Matters through a third party.
By the beginning of April 2011, Media Matters was scrambling to retrieve the weapons from Price-Morris. An email exchange obtained by TheDC shows that the group clearly had a stake in the weapons.
Matt Reents, a former senior Media Matters staffer, emailed Price-Morris on April 4, 2011 asking him to transfer ownership of a shotgun to a man named Robert Stewart. Reents also explained that the Glock would be surrendered to the police.
“MD [Maryland] law doesn’t require paperwork or registration when transferring a shotgun,” Reents emailed Price-Morris that Monday morning. “For our records, you will just need to sign a letter designating Robert Stewart as the new owner of the gun (I’ll send the letter to sign once Robert gives me the shotgun’s serial number to put in the letter).”
“Robert is also going to surrender the handgun to the police,” Reents continued. “As it was not registered, this will be straight-forward and won’t require any additional action on your part. If you have any purchase documentation on the handgun, let me know (it was purchased with cash, right?).”
It’s unclear what police department the handgun was surrendered to. A spokeswoman for Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department told TheDC that the department would have to do too much “digging” to provide a timely response for this report.
Price-Morris replied to Reents minutes later, claiming the Glock “was registered in MD” and that Stewart had already “removed it from Maryland.”
“There is no paperwork of the registration on file,” Reents responded, “and Rob ran the handgun in the police system to verify. Do you have a copy of the handgun registration? Either way it won’t be a problem for turning the handgun pack into the police for disposal. But please let me know what paperwork you do have so we can complete the file and dispose of the gun properly. Thanks!”
“[Y]es, will do,” Price-Morris replied.
Reents, who for nine months was simultaneously operations manager at Media Matters and director of operations for Brock’s American Bridge 21st Century political action committee, could not be reached for comment. (RELATED: After slow start, Brock’s American Bridge takes $1 mil from Soros)
Reents is no longer with either group, according to his LinkedIn profile.
In early 2012, when TheDC began investigating Price-Morris’ departure, he frantically phoned Media Matters to alert the group that he had received inquiries.
“They asked me if David had me bring a gun to work,” he warned someone at the organization, according to an inside source.
Price-Morris would not comment on the record for this report, but Media Matters insiders told TheDC that his silence is rumored, internally, to have been purchased by the group.
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Media Matters spokeswoman Jess Levin told TheDC, “Let me think about it and I will get back to you.”
Media Matters did not return that request for comment.
Alex Pappas contributed to this report.