Tombstone, Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- A new move is afoot in the ongoing soap opera that is today’s National Rifle Association.
A motion has been put forward to amend the Bylaws to allow NRA President Charles Cotton to serve an additional 1-year term in office. Under the Association’s Bylaws, the President is allowed to succeed himself only once, meaning that he can serve only two 1-year terms. This is a fairly standard practice in nonprofit organizations to prevent one person from accruing too much power—the same reason US Presidents are limited to two terms.
In the early 2000s, the Board passed a Bylaw amendment to make an exception to the rule and allow Charlton Heston to retain the office for a total of 5 years. That is the only exception to the two-terms rule since it was adopted decades ago. The excuses being offered for allowing Cotton, whose second term ends this April, to serve another term are similar to those offered in Franklin Roosevelt’s unprecedented extra terms as President of the United States:
“Don’t change horses in the middle of a race,” the need for a “steady, experienced hand on the wheel in troubled times,” that there’s no one else prepared to take the helm, etc. But the unspoken reason for maintaining the status quo might be the most important: Culpability.
The primary system of checks and balances within the NRA revolves around the Board’s Audit Committee. The NRA Board of Directors has, in accordance with New York law, adopted a number of policies and procedures to make sure that everything is done on the up-and-up, with no self-dealing, nepotism, conflicts of interest, or sweetheart deals to rob the Association’s coffers or bring shame or embarrassment to the organization. The people tasked with investigating and enforcing these policies are the members of the Audit Committee. As the Board’s official watchdogs, it’s the Audit Committee’s responsibility to ensure that all Board and statutory policies are adhered to by NRA staff and management. The Audit Committee is supposed to review all contracts, investigate conflicts of interest, hear and act upon all “whistleblower” complaints, hire and oversee outside auditors, and generally make sure that the Association is scandal-free and clean as a whistle.
As everyone should well know by now, the NRA is embroiled in a number of scandals and lawsuits.
The crux of the current mess is that, along with wasting millions of dollars on frivolities and status symbols, Wayne LaPierre and other top executives allegedly took advantage of their positions to enrich themselves and some of their close friends. Accusations include tens of millions being spent on “Fundraising Consultants” who were not tracked for performance and millions more going toward no-bid, sweetheart deals for friends and family members, not to mention private jets and escalating executive compensation. In the time between 1997 and 2018, LaPierre’s personal compensation package rose from around $200K to over $2.2 million, with a clause that stipulated that he would continue to be paid his full salary in perpetuity after leaving the Association.
(LaPierre has incredulously claimed that he was unaware of the diamond-studded severance clause in his contract, even though he billed the NRA for the personal lawyer he hired to negotiate that contract.)
There is no question that there have been numerous serious breaches of NRA financial policies over the years, getting worse and worse as time went by. So, you may ask, where was the Audit Committee? Why didn’t they see these problems and force their correction?
It is all too apparent that, instead of diligently looking after the interests of the NRA and its members, the Audit Committee has, for at least the past 20+ years, served as a rubber stamp and smoke screen to Wayne LaPierre’s personal whims. The committee has repeatedly ignored red flags, severe conflicts of interest, nepotism, excessive payments, cavalier accounting practices, and blatant violations of Board policy, New York State law, and the Association’s Bylaws.
This brings us right back to NRA President Charles Cotton and Second Vice President David Coy.
Cotton and Coy have been among Wayne LaPierre’s staunchest defenders during the current troubles. Coincidentally, both Cotton and Coy have been Chair and Vice Chair of the Audit Committee for the past 20+ years. When it comes to culpability for the current mess within the NRA, no NRA Directors bear more responsibility for the failures of the Board to detect and correct the glaring problems than do President Cotton and Second Vice President Coy.
Both have admitted in sworn testimony that as Chair and Vice Chair of the Audit Committee, they instructed outside auditors not to explore the books of the Executive Vice President’s office. Both have admitted that they were unaware of blatant conflicts of interest, such as LaPierre accepting the gift of the use of a luxury yacht (with full crew and chef) in the Bahamas from one of NRA’s major vendors, who was awarded multiple no-bid, multi-million-dollar contracts.
The NRA has been in a steep decline for the past four years, losing at least one-third of its Annual Members (the people who pay the day-to-day bills) and over half of its total revenue. These losses are directly attributable to the perceived corruption at the top of the Association and the utter failure of the Board of Directors to take any significant corrective action. It is now apparent that both the exposed corruption and the Board’s failure to act on that corruption were, in my opinion, due in large part to the actions and inaction of two key players on the Board: Charles Cotton and David Coy.
Just as Wayne LaPierre, at 73 years old, could not risk retiring and allowing anyone else to have full access to the Association’s books and records, Charles Cotton can’t risk leaving the damage control and cover-up of the failures of the Audit Committee to anyone else either. Even though Cotton has been President for the past two years, he has retained his seat as Chairman of the Audit Committee. He’s joined on that all-important committee by Vice Chair David Coy, former President Carolyn Meadows, and long-time Board members Curtis Jenkins and Herb Lanford.
Expect Cotton, Coy, and LaPierre to tell NRA members at the Members’ Meeting in Indianapolis on April 15 that everything is going great, that “your NRA” is strong and effective, and that they expect to hand NY AG Letitia James a resounding defeat in court soon. Then expect the Board, on the following Monday, to approve the bylaw amendment allowing Cotton to serve another term as President, followed closely by his “unanimous” reelection to that office.
After all of the dust and excitement of the Annual Meeting has settled, expect the NRA to file for bankruptcy and use that to try and avoid going to court in the NY suit.
By the way, a leaked email shows Wayne LaPierre notifying the remaining staff that they are exploring the sale of the Headquarters building in Fairfax, Virginia, with an eye toward moving the operation to some other state. All is well—nothing to see here. Ignore the man behind the curtain. Move along now…
See you in Indianapolis on April 15th, 2023.