New York Attorney General Letitia James declared her intention to tear down the NRA years ago, even before her election as AG, and she’s finally making good on the threat. The AG’s office filed suit against the Association, claiming that executives and leaders in the NRA had grossly abused their positions, and misappropriated some $64 million dollars from NRA funds. Her remedy for the corruption and malfeasance is to dissolve the Association and dole out its assets among other charitable organizations within the state of New York.
While there is no doubt that the investigation into the NRA and the suit are politically motivated and intended to damage the gun rights movement as well as Donald Trump’s reelection bid, the brutal truth is that the suit has merit. The NRA leadership has been corrupt and complicit in corruption for at least 20 years.
In response to the suit, the NRA immediately filed a counter-suit against the state of New York for using the power of the state to squelch the Association’s First Amendment rights.
In a letter to NRA Board Members, NRA CEO and Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre declared his intention to fight the attack to the bitter end, and I have no doubt that he will absolutely do so, right down to the last penny in NRA’s treasury.
I have a problem with that, and so should you, if you’re an NRA member. The lawsuit against the NRA stems from improper use of funds on the part of LaPierre and his executive staff. Most of the allegations against LaPierre and company have never been adequately addressed, or even denied. Instead, excuses and counter-charges have been offered up, most of them blaming the messenger. The bulk of LaPierre’s dirty laundry was exposed in an article by reporter Mike Spies, who was working for Bloomberg’s anti-rights “newsroom” entity “The Trace.” Spies was given an assignment to flesh-out some rumors and see what kind of dirt he could dig up on the NRA and its leaders. It turned out that there was a lot of dirt available not far below the surface, and there were a number of NRA employees and former employees ready to share what they knew about the shady dealings of NRA’s top executives.
Spies is a good investigative reporter. His story has details of bloated contracts, cronyism, nepotism, self-dealing, and other chicanery, with documentation and corroboration from multiple sources. Like the lawsuit from New York, the motivation for digging into NRA’s financial affairs was unquestionably political, but the results aren’t based on the motivations of the person doing the digging. As always, I wear my own bias on my sleeve, encouraging readers to recognize that, in spite of my efforts to be fair and accurate, my family’s long and tumultuous history with the NRA could be tainting my reporting, so I encourage people to always explore multiple sources. The NRA brass led with their chins. AG James has obliged them with what could be a knockout blow.
Despite the merit of Letitia James’ lawsuit, her remedy – dissolution of the Association – is nothing short of ludicrous. Her obligation and responsibility is to protect the owners of the organization’s assets. In this case, that means protecting the NRA members who fund the organization. Removing top executives, LaPierre in particular, would be reasonable and justifiable, as would removing the entire Board of Directors and possibly restructuring the leadership. Anything beyond that would be punishing the victims – NRA members.
But that’s exactly what James and Cuomo want to do.
That is because at its heart, this is all about their disagreement with the political positions of the NRA, and not at all about protecting the Association or its members.
The NRA could make a very sound argument to that effect, and probably resolve this whole mess in a matter of days, rather than the long years that I expect this to actually last. If the NRA actually had leaders who cared about the members, leaders who were looking out for their best interests, everyone with even a hint of scandal would have already been removed from their positions, and a series of reforms and protections would have been put into place to ensure that the Association could move forward without repeating the mistakes of the past. The guilty parties who were getting rich off of the largess of NRA members, might even be brought up on criminal charges, and sued to recover some of what they improperly took.
Over a year ago, I said the NRA Board of Directors had two choices in the face of the revelations of malfeasance at the top of the organization:
- They could remove the miscreants and fix the problems, admitting any wrongdoing, and facing whatever uncomfortable music might come along with that admission, or
- They could circle the wagons around Wayne LaPierre and keep circling right down the toilet.
That same choice is presenting itself once again, but this time the stakes are even higher and the crowd is watching. The Board of Directors will soon have a convenient opportunity to replace Wayne LaPierre with a simple majority vote. If they take that opportunity, and follow-up with other reforms and course corrections, they could be in a reasonable position to walk into court and convince a judge to dismiss the suit against the Association with minimal damage.
Not taking that opportunity will mean years of continuing legal wrangling with the authorities in New York, costing the Association millions of dollars every month in direct expenses, and costing them millions more in lost revenue because so many people see LaPierre as a problem and refuse to support the organizations as long as he remains in office. It also means foregoing any chance of recovering any of the tens of millions of dollars that were improperly sucked out of NRA’s coffers over the years by LaPierre and his cronies.
The NRA has canceled, rescheduled, and canceled again their Annual Meeting of Members. They are now saying that they will hold the meeting on October 24th in Tucson, Arizona, the same day that the Second Amendment Rally is scheduled in Washington DC. If this date holds, I hope thousands of NRA members from around the country will make it a point to attend and demand that the Board of Directors take meaningful action to stop the lunacy and put the NRA back on track again.
If Letitia James and Andrew Cuomo get their way, the NRA will spend the next several years spending every dime they can raise on various lawsuits and complaints, rather than fighting for the rights of their members, and in the end, whatever remains will be confiscated and distributed to other causes that James and Cuomo consider “worthy.” While they might not be able to legally dissolve the Association, they most certainly are able to capture its focus and spending to keep it from effectively accomplishing its core missions, and wasting its money on worthless causes.
The NRA is more important than any one person or small group of people. It is stupid and corrupt for the Board of Directors to allow Wayne LaPierre and John Frazer, who are both cited for their roles in the misdeeds the NY lawsuit is based on, to select and supervise the attorneys responsible for defending the NRA in court. At a minimum, the Board of Directors should hire independent counsel with explicit instructions to defend the Association, not any officers, or employees. LaPierre, Frazer, and any other NRA officers, employees, or contractors, should not even have a hint of control or management of those attorneys or their conduct of the case.
As things stand, the NRA attorneys were hired and are controlled by Wayne LaPierre, and it is clear that they are treating LaPierre as their primary client, protecting him over the NRA membership, and sucking millions of dollars a month from member assets, in the process.