Tag Archives: NRA

New York Attorney General Finally Pulls the Trigger on the NRA

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:

  1. They could remove the miscreants and fix the problems, admitting any wrongdoing, and facing whatever uncomfortable music might come along with that admission, or
  2. 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.

The lunatics are indeed in control of the asylum.

NRA Meeting to be Held in Springfield, MO?

 

Update: 09/16/2020: NRA subsequently shifted again, settling on a meeting in Tucson scheduled for October 24.  Registration for the meeting opened online at https://www.nraam.org/ on September 16.

(Past Update: 06/09/2020: NRA has a semi-official announcement of the location and date found here: NRA’s 149th Annual Meeting of Members rescheduled in Missouri)

NRA Board of Directors
NRA Board of Directors: NRA Meeting to be Held in Springfield, MO?

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- A letter sent out on NRA Whittington Center letterhead, indicates that, as I had predicted, the NRA Annual Meeting of Members will indeed be held in conjunction with the regularly scheduled, September Board of Directors meeting. What is unexpected is the location discussed in the letter – Springfield, Missouri.

The Whittington Center is a beautiful range facility NRA built in New Mexico. The letter, dated May 28, 2020, told recipients that the NRA Annual Meeting, which had been put off due to COVID-19, has been scheduled for September 5. 2020, in Springfield, MO, with a Board of Directors meeting on the following Monday, the 7th, which happens to be Labor Day.

NRA Whittington Center Conflict Letter
NRA Whittington Center Conflict Letter

The main purpose of the letter was to explain that a previously scheduled event for the Whittington Center, is going to be rescheduled for early October, due to its original date conflicting with the new date for the NRA Annual Meeting.

No official announcements about the new meeting plans have come out of NRA HQ so far. There is nothing about the meetings on the NRA website and there has been nothing in the Official Journal, so consider this information a very solid rumor, rather than a confirmed fact.

Under the NRA Charter and Bylaws, a Members’ Meeting must be held every year before November 30. 2020.

There are also requirements regarding proper notice. Under the Bylaws, notice of the Members’ Meeting must be published in the Official Journal (the NRA business section inside each of the NRA’s magazines) in two consecutive editions prior to the meeting date. Since the lead time for the magazines is usually about 2 months, and the magazine dated for the next month usually comes out early in the month prior, that leaves NRA with few options for making the required announcements. This being the beginning of June, the July edition of the magazine would normally be hitting members’ mail boxes any day now. But it looks like some, and maybe all of the NRA magazines are combining July and August editions, with magazines going out in the third week of June. That narrows NRA’s window even more. If an official announcement about the meeting is not included in a regular July edition, then NRA could be in breach of their obligation under the bylaws if they don’t have announcements in the August and September issues. That would be cutting things mighty thin, and might not meet the legal requirement. We’ll find out soon.

In the meantime, I sent the following note to NRA Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer on Tuesday, June 2:

John,

I’m sending this as an open letter and plan to publish it, along with your reply, if one is forthcoming in a timely fashion.

I saw the Whittington Center letter stating that the Annual Meeting of Members will be held in Springfield, MO on September 5, with a Board meeting following on the 7th.
Can you confirm that this information is correct?

If this information is correct, can you provide some more detail? For instance the venue, times, and information about any concurrent events?
I’d also be interested in any information you could provide me regarding the rationale for this choice of locations, as opposed to holding the meetings in Northern Virginia, close to NRA HQ and the support staff, and whether this choice originated with the Board or with staff, but I don’t want to bog you down with too many questions, so please share whatever you are able to.

I assume that more information will be forthcoming in the July or August edition of the Official Journal, but I would think that getting accurate information out to members as early as possible, would be in the best interest of the Association and its members.
I look forward to hearing from you.

In Liberty,
Jeff

I did get a quick reply back from Secretary Frazer asking me when I was hoping to publish. I responded that I wanted to go to press within a day or two, but have not heard anything since then. I held back publishing this article in hopes of a reply, but can’t wait any longer. If I do hear back from the NRA, I will add a note to this piece.

A friend checked with the Springfield, MO convention and visitors bureau and was told that no deal has been signed with the NRA yet, just a proposal. I also checked with some members of the NRA Board of Directors and they had no knowledge of the meeting being even tentatively scheduled.

It should be noted that the Bylaws stipulate that the Annual Meeting of Members shall be held “at such time and place as determined by the Board of Directors.” If I’m informing Directors of plans for a meeting in Springfield, MO, it’s a pretty safe bet those Directors didn’t participate in the decision to hold the meeting there. Just one more example of the Board allowing staff to lead them, rather than the other way around.

It’s also worth noting that the NRA has taken over the Shooting Illustrated Concealed Carry Expo, which happens to be being held in Dallas over the same weekend that they’re talking about holding the Members’ Meeting in Missouri. Seems like they’d get a better turnout and be able to do more special, fundraising side-events in conjunction with the Dallas event. Didn’t I read somewhere that money is an issue at NRA these days?

The news might change in a few days, but for now, I’ve started shopping for airline tickets and accommodations in Springfield, and I hope many of you will do the same. Just don’t do the non-refundable kind. While the members at an NRA Annual Meeting wield little direct power, we do potentially have enough power to influence the Board to take needed action. If possible, plan to be there for the Members’ Meeting on Saturday and stay through the Monday Board meeting. The Board is supposed to represent the members and the staff is supposed to follow the instructions of the Board. It’s past time for that mode to be put back in place. Get some friends together and plan a road trip, whether to Springfield, Dallas, or DC. Share travel and room costs. Participate in trying to save our Association.

Stay tuned to AmmoLand News and www.FirearmsCoalition.org for updates and other information.

New York Files Charges Against the NRA – More Charges on the Way

The first shoe has dropped in the legal assault on the NRA. The New York State Department of Financial Services has formally filed a Statement of Charges against the NRA for violating a variety of New York insurance laws, including producing and selling insurance without a license, selling unlawful insurance products, and “unfair and deceptive marketing materials” regarding their endorsed insurance products.

This is not just about NRA’s much-maligned Carry Guard program, which the Statement of Charges labels as an “unlawful insurance” product, but covers all of NRA’s insurance offerings. According to the Statement of Charges, NRA’s endorsement of, advertising for, and receipt of “royalties” for their various endorsed insurance products, constitutes “operating as an insurance producer without a license.”

In other words, they’re saying that the NRA was “engaging in the business” of producing and selling insurance without acquiring the necessary licenses.

The legal action is seeking monetary penalties against the NRA and the repercussions could go well beyond fines and future restrictions on their activities in New York. Insurance carriers that were working with the NRA have already reached settlements with New York enforcers, agreeing to pay over $13 million. Fines and penalties against the NRA could easily approach the $50 million mark.

The Statement of Charges (read below) also includes a Notice of Hearing, scheduled for April 6, 2020, just 10 days prior to the kickoff of the 2020 NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Nashville, TN. Expect the NRA to try and delay that hearing until after the Meeting of Members, so they can tell the members who gather in Nashville that it’s all just political smoke and mirrors.

I have been predicting that the AG’s of New York and DC would hold off on filing charges until those filings would do the most possible damage to the Association’s efforts in the 2020 election. I’m sticking by that prediction, as I expect that this insurance matter will prove to be just the first of several actions brought by regulators in various jurisdictions.

Investigations into the NRA’s insurance programs are just the tip of the iceberg. Regulators are known to be looking into revocation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status, and the New York AG has threatened to revoke the Association’s charter and lock-up NRA’s finances – to protect the members. Those watching the case closely will recall that current and former members of the NRA Board of Directors, along with current and former NRA employees, have been deposed by investigators from New York – where the NRA is chartered – and legal experts have suggested that the lines of questioning suggest the AG’s office could be preparing to file criminal charges against some NRA employees and Directors for fraud, misappropriation of funds, self-dealing, and dereliction of fiduciary responsibility.

Wayne LaPierre
Wayne LaPierre

For their part, it appears that the NRA strategy is going to continue to revolve around a claim that NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, is the victim of a conspiracy, led by his long-time friends and allies at the PR firm Ackerman McQueen (AcMc). The claim is that LaPierre discovered some questionable billing and payment issues a few years ago and when he tried to right the ship with a “good governance” campaign, his friends at AcMc, along with their operatives on the Board and elsewhere in the Association, turned on him and launched a concerted campaign to smear him, trying to stage a coup against him.

Joshua Powell
Joshua Powell

Recent events, including the suspension and eventual termination of LaPierre’s Chief of Staff, Josh Powell, suggest that Powell, who LaPierre installed as Executive Director of General Operations and lead executive in charge of the Carry Guard program, will be painted as the primary culprit in the insurance matter. LaPierre will again claim that he discovered the problems and took “decisive action” to rectify them by suspending, investigating, and terminating Powell.

Of course, the major flaw in official NRA’s strategy, is that LaPierre has been the CEO of the NRA for nearly 30 years, with authority and responsibility for the oversight and operation of all facets of NRA operations.

Every person who has been in any way implicated in any of the scandals at the NRA has been closely associated with LaPierre, and in most cases they owed their positions and influence within the Association directly to LaPierre. So either Wayne LaPierre was aware of, and complicit in the various schemes and scandals, or he is the worst judge of character, and the most inept manager to ever run an organization. In either case, the responsibility lies with LaPierre and so should the consequences.

It is impossible to separate LaPierre from the actions of his subordinates, especially when those actions span decades under his watch, and especially when he has seen substantial personal and familial benefits from these actions.

There’s no question that the legal attacks on the NRA, from the expose’s from the Trace and the New Yorker, to the investigations by the New York and DC AG’s offices and the inquiries from various members of Congress, are all politically motivated. That’s been clear from the outset. But just because the impetus for the investigations was political, that doesn’t nullify the findings. The Trace reporter set out looking for dirt and he found it – lots of it – and he found documentation to back up the dirt he’d found. Similarly, the dirt that’s come out of the lawsuits involving Ackerman McQueen is tainted with various personal motives and has been couched in the most inflammatory terms imaginable, but the core issues revealed are serious and NRA members deserve serious answers, not just childish finger-pointing and name-calling.

NRA Lawyer William Brewer
NRA Lawyer William Brewer

As I said at the outset, these charges from the New York State Department of Financial Services, are just the tip of the iceberg, and more charges from other agencies will undoubtedly be forthcoming. Meanwhile, NRA members have been paying something in the neighborhood of $2 million per month for the past 2 years, for an attorney whose primary focus appears to be the protection of Wayne LaPierre, with little or no apparent concern for the NRA itself or its members.

NRA’s legal and financial troubles are just beginning. More will most assuredly be on the way. There’s a slight chance that the members might be able to affect some positive change at the NRA Members’ Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee on April 18 2020, so every NRA member who can make that meeting should try to be there. Attending the meeting is going to cost me something in the neighborhood of $1000.00 out of my pocket, but even a slight chance of saving our organization makes that expense worth it to me. I hope you’ll join me there and let your voice be heard.

You can read the Statement of Charges here.

New State’s Statement of Charges Against NRA February 2020

2020 NRA BoD Election, Jeff Knox Lists His Picks for Votes & NO Votes

Old NRA New NRA Maze
2020 NRA BoD Election, Jeff Knox Lists His Picks for Votes & NO Votes

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- Each year I try to provide some guidance to NRA members wondering how to best utilize their votes in the election of members of the NRA Board of Directors. Usually, this entails calling for “bullet voting” for one or two good candidates in a sea of establishment “yes-people.” But this year is a bit different. Many of the problems that I’ve been reporting on and warning about for years, came to a head over the past year, proving that I was justified in my concerns, and demonstrating the serious dangers of having an overabundance of “yes-people” on the Board.

Thanks to a number of resignations from the Board over the past year, this year’s ballot involves 31 seats, rather than the 25 that are normally up for election. The Board is comprised of 75 3-year seats and one 1-year seat, for a total of 76, with 1/3 of the 3-year seats up for election by mail-in ballot each year, and the 76th seat elected by the members at the Annual Meeting.

The vast majority of the people listed on your ballot are current members of the Board running for reelection. That means that they are people who have either participated in, turned a blind eye toward, or been too distracted to notice the chicanery that’s been going on.

Of the “new” people on the ballot, only one is a true newcomer who wasn’t picked by the establishment to run. That is Frank Tait of Pennsylvania.

Frank who leaped into the spotlight at the Members’ Meeting in Indianapolis last year when he introduced a resolution calling for an accounting of the accusations of malfeasance and cronyism at members expense and called for a vote of “No Confidence” in Wayne LaPierre and members of the Executive, Audit, and Finance committees. The resolution was shut down in a parliamentary boondoggle, but Tait went on to launch a successful petition campaign to get his name on this year’s ballot.

Tait has since said some things that cause me some consternation, but I am standing by the endorsement I gave him during his petition drive.

The only other candidate to have been nominated by petition only is former Director John Cushman, who has served on the Board off and on for more than 20 years. I’m not sure what Cushman said or did to get himself rejected by the Nominating Committee after his long, loyal service, but I consider him to have been part of the problem, not part of the solution, so I am not endorsing him.

Of the other candidates nominated by the Nominating Committee, I see most of them as rubber-stamp candidates nominated to support LaPierre. One exception is Phillip Journey of Kansas. I’ve known Phil for many years and always found him to be a man of integrity and intellect, and I will be giving him a vote this year. I also like and respect Niger Innis of Nevada, with the hope that he will prove to be something of the man his father was. The final person I’m supporting in this category is James Wallace of Massachusetts. I worry that he might be too much of an insider, but I deeply respect the work he has done with the Gun Owners’ Action League deep behind enemy lines.

Along with the long-time Directors who I see as culpable in the NRA corruption, there are also several who are relatively new to the Board, having been elected in just the past couple of years. I’m giving several of them the benefit of the doubt and offering them my vote. This includes Anthony Colandro (Anthony is Endorsed by Ammoland News) of New Jersey, Mark Vaughn of Oklahoma, Mark Robinson of North Carolina, Robert Mansell of Arizona, Kevin Hogan of Illinois, and Paul Babaz of Georgia.

While there are a few Directors who have quietly expressed support for reform within the Association, “quietly” is the operative word, and I can’t in good conscience offer them my support.

There are also some candidates on the ballot who have been very active in defending LaPierre and helping to shut down dissent on the Board, with First Vice President Charles Cotton being one of their leaders.

NRA members can send a loud message to the Board and the powers that be, by rejecting Mr. Cotton’s bid for reelection, along with the bids of past presidents, Ron Schmeitz and Alan Cors. (Read Do NOT Vote for.)

The NRA is in deep trouble. I honestly expect indictments and financial sanctions to be coming down very soon from investigations being conducted by the New York and DC attorneys general and other agencies. All of these troubles tie directly back to Wayne LaPierre and the NRA Directors who allowed him to abuse his power so egregiously. If the Association can be saved, it’s going to require Directors willing to make hard decisions and stand firmly on principles. This ballot doesn’t offer a lot of hope for that, but we must do what we can with what we’ve got.

Candidates I Support:

  • Frank Tait of Pennsylvania
  • Phillip Journey of Kansas
  • Niger Innis of Nevada
  • James Wallace of Massachusetts
  • Anthony Colandro of New Jersey
  • Mark Vaughn of Oklahoma
  • Mark Robinson of North Carolina
  • Robert Mansell of Arizona
  • Kevin Hogan of Illinois
  • Paul Babaz of Georgia

Candidates I Oppose:

  • Charles Cotton of Texas
  • Ron Schmeitz of New Mexico
  • Alan Cors of Virginia

    In other NRA News, New York State Files Charges Against NRA related to Insurance Violations:

    The New York Department of Financial Services has filed a Statement of Charges against the NRA for “defined violations of insurance law,” and set a hearing date of April 6, 2020, just 10 days before the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits.

    Note that this Statement of Charges only deals with insurance matters, not all of the other issues that have been being raised about the organization.

    I expect that this is only the first of several legal challenges that will be brought over the next several months.

    I’ll have more about this soon. In the meantime, you can read the Statement of Charges here.

    New State’s Statement of Charges Against NRA February 2020

Five Questions for 73 Remaining NRA Board Members

Three dedicated, hard-working, thoroughly committed NRA directors have resigned their seats in protest of the leadership’s heavy-handed tactics, and the inability to gain access to information critical to them fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities. Ester Schneider, Tim Knight, and Sean Maloney tendered their resignations this morning, and they were, I suspect, gleefully accepted by President Carolyn Meadows. I’m very disappointed to see them go, but know that they will continue the fight.

These resignations of 3 of the six directors who have had the gumption to call for an independent audit of the association, highlight the core issue that all of this wrangling boils down to ~ The issue of trust.

Whether or not Wayne LaPierre participated in the financial misdeeds that were clearly going on at the NRA for well over a decade… Whether or not he has been correcting the ship over the past year or so… And whether or not LaPierre is personally orchestrating the obstruction and stonewalling that’s going on… The fact is, the original lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, is, all by itself, a public confession that the Association management was not being prudent and responsible with the members’ money. That, along with the wide array of evidence that has come out regarding conflicts of interest, nepotism, cronyism, and clear incompetence in the case of Carry Guard™, combine to form a damning indictment of the man at the top, who was tasked with overseeing all of those things, and of the board of directors that was tasked with overseeing the man at the top. LaPierre must bear the responsibility. That’s where the buck stops.

There’s no doubt that this scandal has damaged the trust relationship between the NRA and its members, and seriously damaged the NRA’s brand. Now the question is, what course can restore trust and revive the brand the fastest and most effectively. Doggedly insisting that all is well while supporting the person responsible for the damage and loss of trust, is a failing strategy. Insisting that only LaPierre can save us and that without him, the NRA will fall, resulting in Donald Trump losing the presidency, and Republicans crashing in 2020, is simply ludicrous. But that’s the public position being advanced by LaPierre loyalists on the NRA board. (See “What’s Really Going On Inside NRA Operations” by Director Scott Bach)

Ronald Reagan famously said; “Trust, but verify.” That’s as good an idea in business and effective nonprofit organizations, as it is in nuclear disarmament. If we, the members and supporters of the NRA, are going to trust the NRA and its leadership, we must verify that our money is being spent wisely and responsibly. To that end, it is imminently practical and reasonable for the board to commission an independent audit of the NRA, with special attention being paid to areas of particular concern, such as fundraising, executive compensation, conflicts of interest among staff and directors, and legal expenses.

Rather than answer the recent spate of myopic excuse-making from various members of the NRA Board of Directors, I’d like to invite those, and all of the remaining 73 directors, to answer five simple questions:

  • 1. Why does Josh Powell still have a job at the NRA after his thorough bungling of Carry Guard™?
  • 2. How is it even remotely possible for a law firm with only about 10 attorneys and a total of 30 to 40 employees, to validly bill between $90,000 and $100,000+ PER DAY for their services?
  • 3. Have you personally reviewed the documentation related to the issues raised by Emily Cummins in her briefing notes for the Audit Committee and her letter regarding William Brewer, or have you simply taken someone’s word for it that these things have been “reviewed, vetted, and approved?
  • 4. What do you expect the response would be if you asked to see this information or publicly supported the idea of ordering an independent audit?
  • 5. What possible, rational reason can you offer for Wayne LaPierre blocking any sort of independent audit of the Association’s books and business practices?

As I said in the opening of this column, everything going on at the NRA boils down to trust. Do the members trust the leadership? I would submit that it is obvious that a large percentage do not.

Whether that mistrust is founded in rational thought, irrational emotion, or some sort of vast left-wing conspiracy, is irrelevant. What matters is that there is a trust deficit that must be addressed if the NRA is to move forward. Reassurances from directors and dire warnings about potential political consequences, will not restore trust. Casting aspersions on those of us asking questions and calling for transparency, will not restore trust. Neither will suing everyone who dares to challenge the status quo.

What will restore trust, is openness and honesty – verified by documentation.

I personally believe that Wayne LaPierre should have resigned long ago, and if he truly cared about the NRA and its mission, he would have fallen on his sword the moment the allegations of impropriety (which have never been refuted, or in large part, even denied, by the way) were made public. No one is irreplaceable. It is ridiculous to think that major donors only give what they do because of their relationship with Wayne LaPierre. That would be remarkably shallow of them. Sure, those relationships – that trust – matter, but in the final analysis, it’s the mission, not the man, that motivates people. Had Wayne stepped down sooner, he could have maintained those relationships and continued to support the cause, but now he’s tainted himself and thrown mud on everyone around him, seriously compromising both his personal reputation, and that of the Association. That’s a tragic shame, and the only way to regain the trust that has been lost is to earn it, through diligent work, full disclosure, and holding people accountable for their actions.

Donald Trump is not going to lose his bid for reelection due to the dysfunction within the NRA, and declaring that he will, is not going to solve the NRA’s credibility gap.
Letitia James, the NY AG, is not going to be prevented from conducting a full audit of the NRA, by bogus lawsuits or personal endorsements from supporters of LaPierre. She has the full authority, under New York law, to examine all aspects of the NRA’s operations, and you can bet she’s going to exercise that authority with a vengeance. Conducting an independent audit in advance of her assault would not be detrimental to the NRA’s cause. It would not provide her with ammunition that she couldn’t get anyway, nor would it expose anything that she’s not going to find. What it would do, is provide the NRA Board with the opportunity to identify problems, correct those problems, and address issues of accountability, before she and her audit team come in.

I predicted this situation back in April, before the Members’ Meeting in Indianapolis, and advised that the board needed to take immediate steps to clean their house, identify any questionable actions, and correct them, and distance the Association from those responsible for those questionable actions. I pointed out that everyone at the NRA should know that they are under a magnifying glass, and must shun even the appearance of evil. The board didn’t take my advice then, but they had better take it now.

Get your house in order. Regain the trust of the membership. That starts with identifying the areas that need work, and that means an independent audit.

What No One On The NRA Board Of Directors Is Saying

Amid the claims and counter-claims, suits and counter-suits, and all of the other nonsense swirling around the National Rifle Association these days, something significant has been missing.

While our new NRA brass like President Meadows, Vice President Cotton, Vice President Lee, and directors like Marion Hammer, Tom King, and Joel Friedman have repeatedly told us that everything that Wayne and his cohorts have done was “reviewed, vetted, and approved,” what none of them, nor any other member of the board has said, is “I knew all about that, examined it, and approved it before it was done.”

They all seem happy to insist that there’s nothing to see here, so move along, and anyone asking questions is a traitor to the cause. The NRA leadership insists collectively that “the board knew,” and “the board approved” things…. But so far no one has stepped up to claim personal, direct knowledge or responsibility for what has been going on, nor have they explained exactly what it was that was “reviewed, vetted, and approved.”

Is President Meadows saying that she knew about and approved payment of over $4,000 per month for a luxury apartment for an intern? Was Vice President Cotton personally aware of and did he approve Wayne LaPierre buying $30,000 worth of clothing – on our tab – from a swanky, Beverly Hills clothing store in one day? Did Vice President Lee directly approve LaPierre’s $274,000 shopping sprees from that same-store over a period of years?

If they knew about it and approved it, why wasn’t it reported on the Association’s tax forms as compensation to LaPierre? And since it apparently was not reported as required by law, are those directors who vetted and approved all of that, ready to pay the penalties out of their own pockets?

Are NRA officials saying that they personally “reviewed, vetted, and approved” payments from the NRA Foundation to charities that have nothing to do with firearms or firearms education, in violation of the Foundation’s charter? Are they saying that they personally “reviewed, vetted, and approved” having NRA executives and their spouses working for, and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from NRA vendors? Are they saying that they have personally “reviewed, vetted, and approved” the details of the services and payments being made to attorney William Brewer and his firm?

At the same time that the above-mentioned officers and directors have been telling us that “the board knew all about these things” and that “the board reviewed, vetted, and approved” everything. At least a dozen different members of the board have told me personally that they didn’t know anything about a wide variety of the activities that were going on at headquarters. Or that they have not seen any detailed explanation as to what precisely the NRA is getting for the 2 million dollars a month, or so, that NRA is paying to the Brewer law firm. Those directors who have had the temerity to ask to see any of that information have been called “unprofessional,” been denied committee assignments, and been threatened that they won’t be renominated by the Nominating Committee.

Just a few months ago, President Meadows herself, signed onto a letter demanding a comprehensive review of Brewer’s invoices and services, but now she is punishing and marginalizing any director who dares to ask for that same information. Since her election, she has insisted that every director has always had full access to all of the information on everything going on at the NRA and within the various committees and that if they don’t know something, it’s their own fault for being lazy or incompetent. But then she and her cohorts in leadership, punish and publicly chastise any director who asks for more information.

The argument now appears to be that certain directors can’t be given access to certain, “highly sensitive” information, because those directors aren’t trustworthy and might be secretly working for an enemy of the Association. Meanwhile, the criteria to determine who is worthy of trust is whether they are asking questions or requesting more information.

How’s that for a Catch-22?

Many NRA members have been challenging directors with uncomfortable questions over the past couple of months, primarily whether the director supports replacing Wayne LaPierre as Executive Vice President. That’s a good question, but it leaves lots of weasel room. Better questions would be things like:

“Did you personally know about and approve paying Wayne LaPierre an extra $274,000 under the table, for Italian suits, on top of his $1.4 million compensation package and expense account?”

“Have you personally reviewed the work and working agreement for William Brewer and approved paying his firm $100,000 per day?”

“Do you support stripping committee assignments from board members who ask questions about how the Association’s resources are being spent?”

Actually, NRA directors should be asking themselves these questions, and they should be paying their own lawyers to ask them too and help them formulate some excellent answers because it’s looking like they are about to be asked by other lawyers – in court.

A group of NRA members, lead by well-healed NRA donor David Dell’Aquila, has launched a plan to return transparency and accountability to the NRA. They started by withholding funds and pledged donations in the millions of dollars. Now they’ve published a report card grading directors’ performance, along with a letter strongly suggesting that directors have only a narrow window in which to demonstrate that their loyalty lies with the NRA membership, not with any individual or group within the board or the staff.

It seems pretty clear to me that Dell’Aquila and his group are planning to file suits against individual directors for failing to fulfill their fiduciary obligations to the members. Even though the NRA maintains an exorbitant amount of liability insurance for directors, New York law allows individual directors to be held accountable if they are negligent or corrupt in the performance of their duties.

This should be causing some serious concern for those directors who have just been going along to get along, and even more for those that have been riding the gravy train.


A brief disclaimer:

Some 23 years ago, my father tried to correct a problem he saw growing within the NRA, and he failed. He was pushed out of the leadership of the organization and eventually dropped from the board. I have some hard feelings about that, but I try very hard not to let my personal feelings shade my judgment or my reporting. For me, as it was for my father, the critical issue is that the NRA be strong, effective, and true to the principles of the Bill of Rights.

Each time I write one of these articles reporting on issues inside the NRA, I am accused of squeezing sour grapes and grinding my dad’s old ax. I’ve also been accused of “attacking the NRA” for my own financial gain.

FirearmsCoalition.org
FirearmsCoalition.org

It’s reasonable to believe that my own experience and feelings might color my view of the happenings within the NRA, and it’s reasonable to take my reporting with that grain of salt. If you see some fact that is incomplete, or that might be interpreted in a different, less negative light, perhaps that’s my bias showing through, but please don’t discount the facts. Do your own research, and if you ever find that I’m unfair or inaccurate, please provide details in the comment section.

As to me benefiting financially off of my “NRA bashing,” I sure wish that were true because I could use the money. The reality is that I get paid very little for my articles, and typically see a bump in contributions to my organization of about $40 to $100 dollars whenever I publish one of these pieces. That’s nice, but it’s not going to pay for a new Italian suit. I’m pretty sure that GOA and SAF get significantly more financial support from the readers at Ammoland.com than The Firearms Coalition does, as is typically evident in the comment section, where there is invariably a slew of comments saying something like; “Jeff’s right. I’m sending my donations to GOA.” Or SAF. Or FPC….

I feed my family with the words I write, but I don’t write for the money. I write for the cause.

A Call for New-Blood Candidates for NRA BoD

The NRA is in trouble. Continuing to elect the same people who keep making the same mistakes, is not going to solve the problems. We need new ideas, new perspectives, and new approaches. That means we need new people on the NRA Board of Directors.

Do you know individuals who are qualified?

The NRA Board of Directors only meets four times a year. They are tasked with setting policy for the organization and overseeing the proper execution of those policies on behalf of the members, including ensuring that money is raised and spent responsibly. This responsibility is officially reported as requiring about one hour per week from each director, but actually fulfilling the role will probably take much more time than that.

The Bylaws list a minimal set of qualifications, but the real qualifications go well beyond the minimums listed in the Bylaws.

First and foremost, an NRA Director must have an understanding of – and dedication to – the principles of liberty, as described in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. An NRA Director must be a Second Amendment absolutist who recognizes that rights cannot be compromised or bartered. Political pragmatism has a place as a short-term tactic, but the NRA must never put political considerations above the core principles our nation and our organization were founded upon. Every NRA Director must be well-versed in that history and those principles, which must be the foundation for every decision made as a director.

Second, a Director must bring to the Board some professional-level expertise about business, finance, fundraising, membership organizations, politics, or some other topic that may affects the Association and might require a Board policy directive. No one can be an expert in every topic, but every Board member should be an expert in his or her particular field and be able to assist the other Directors in developing a well-grounded policy on that topic.

Finally, an NRA Director must be widely recognized as honorable and respected members of the firearms community. That doesn’t necessarily mean having a wall of trophies, but guns and shooting should be an important part of any Director’s life, whether it be focused on hunting, target shooting, or collecting.

The best candidates are people who have had leadership roles in state or local organizations, while also building or working for successful businesses, or other complementary careers. The ability to effectively speak in public, or experience lobbying politicians, can be useful, but it’s not critical, and that ability or experience doesn’t trump the qualifications listed above.

Good candidates are typically going to be older individuals with significant amounts of experience under their belts, but that does not mean that there isn’t a place for younger candidates who have earned the respect of the community by demonstrating their commitment and abilities. To the contrary, it is critical that the organization have representation from a wide variety of individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skill-sets to offer.

Candidates must be nominated either by the Nominating Committee [tightly controlled by insider board members] or by petition of fellow members. It takes signatures from the equivalent of 0.5% of the number of ballots cast in the preceding BoD election, this year that’s about 730 valid signatures from NRA members who are eligible to vote. That might not seem like all that many, after all, there are hundreds of people at gun shows every weekend, but the catch is the “eligible to vote” clause. There are around 100 million gun owners in the U.S., but only about 5.5 million NRA members, and only about half of those members are eligible to vote in NRA elections. That means that among any 100 random gun owners, only about 5 will be NRA members, and only 2 or 3 will be eligible to sign a nominating petition. So, even at a gun show or a busy range, you’ll have to ask about 2,000 people, in order to find 100 eligible voters – and then you have to get their NRA Member Number. Do you carry your NRA membership card or a mailing label from your NRA magazine around with you? Most people don’t. That means that the signature gatherer will have to do some followup to try and collect that information. In the end, it will typically require talking to at least 16,000 people, in order to find 730 NRA members eligible to sign the petition, but many of those won’t sign, because they don’t know enough about the candidate, and aren’t willing to take the time to learn.

There’s no question, getting the valid signatures needed to qualify a petition, is a whole lot of work to go through just to get your name on a ballot to run for a thankless job that pays nothing. Still, last year, past-President Marion Hammer had the temerity to suggest that someone nominated by petition of the members is somehow suspect, and unworthy of the members’ trust.

Of course, getting the petition signatures is only the first hurdle, then comes the matter of being elected. The elections are held by mail among all 2.5 million NRA Voting Members, but only a small segment (historically less than 7%) of those members actually cast a ballot, and the vast majority of those who do vote, get all of their information about the candidates exclusively from NRA magazines – which of course, are controlled by the NRA establishment. This gives incumbents a huge advantage that is very difficult to overcome.

But the current members of the Board of Directors is never going to make the changes needed to make the NRA the principled, effective, organization that the members deserve, so changing the Board has to be the first step in restoring the NRA, and that’s going to take at least 3 or 4 years, even if we’re wildly successful.

Do you know people with the principle, integrity, and experience willing to take on this challenge? Are you ready to go to work to help get them elected? It might be too late for the next election, but there’s one every year, and we need to be ready. Reach out to me or the folks at Savethe2A.org, and let’s get started.

You Are the Gun Lobby & You Need to Act Like It

With all of the hubbub over the mess at the NRA, now seems like a good time to remind everyone that YOU are the Gun Lobby.

This is a theme I have come back to again and again in the 13+ years that I have been writing about Second Amendment issues and leading The Firearms Coalition, and even before that. In a speech on the Arizona Capitol grounds earlier this year, I said that the gun lobby “is not a bunch of overpaid suits in Washington D.C. … if the NRA disappeared tomorrow, the Gun Lobby would still be just as powerful, because it’s not the NRA, it’s NRA members and tens of millions of other dedicated patriots just like you.”

In retrospect, those comments, which were very similar to comments I made at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania over a decade ago, seem somewhat prophetic, especially considering Wayne LaPierre’s $276k clothing bills, but the point has always been true. All of the NRA’s power, prestige, money, and influence flow directly from you and me and people like us. While the NRA is a useful tool, it is not the source of power or influence. You are.

It is particularly important for everyone to understand that the ugly mess facing the NRA today has the organization crippled, and it will remain crippled for some time into the foreseeable future.

But the gun lobby must continue to be strong.

Even if the NRA “leadership” allows the last of our dollars to bleed out into the pockets of lawyers and charlatans, even if the organization allows itself to be torn down by politicians and bureaucrats, the gun lobby must continue to be strong.

With the NRA distracted and in disarray, it’s critical for you, the Gun Lobby, to take personal responsibility for protecting your rights. You can’t rely on the NRA, or any other group, to do the heavy lifting for you. You must roll up your sleeves and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbors to ensure that the radical rights opponents don’t flush your children’s and grandchildren’s birthright down the toilet.

After decades of a slow erosion of our rights, and occasionally regaining small bits of ground, we stand on the brink. The slippery slope is only inches wide, with nothing but a sheer cliff beyond it. The Democrats have given their party fully over to a “progressive” philosophy of total government control and citizen subservience, with a government monopoly on arms being one of their primary goals. Until saner heads regain control of that party, it is critical that they are defeated.

We, as defenders of freedom and lovers of liberty, can no longer afford to hang back and lend our support only to the cream of the solid, pro-rights candidates. At this point, the Democratic Party has taken that luxury away from us. Now our only option is to work for their defeat, regardless of the individual stands of their candidates or their opponents. Right now, it’s all about majorities – in Congress, in state legislatures, and on county boards and city councils. Even in states with low crime, and strong traditions of firearm freedom, like Maine and Vermont, Democrat majorities are pushing agendas of draconian gun control, simply because they can, and because Bloomberg and the Giffords’ group keep dumping millions into local elections, in support of radical Democrat, rights restrictors.

These assaults on our rights must be answered with votes. Gun owners can’t rely on the NRA to do it for us. We never could, but it’s more true and urgent now than ever before.
Too many times our guys got mad at Republicans for failing to deliver on promises, or for foolishly making concessions to the rights opponents, and stomped off in a huff, refusing to vote, or voting for third-party candidates with zero chance of winning. That’s how we got eight years of Barack Obama, and most recently, it’s how we lost the House of Representatives in 2018.

That absence from the field provided proof to Bloomberg and Democrat strategists that the power of the gun lobby and GunVoters was just a myth. They successfully painted GunVoter frustration with broken promises, as apathy and impotence, because we allowed vocal, gun control advocates to be elected with little opposition from our disgruntled troops.

They think we’re powerless, and they think that without big bucks and coordination from the NRA, we can’t be serious players in the political arena. It’s up to you to prove them wrong.

Political power lies in the ability to impact politicians’ most precious asset: the ability to be elected. Conventional wisdom says that can only be done with huge amounts of money spent on advertising, but conventional wisdom is wrong. We don’t need advertising, because we have the numbers we need already. All we need is for our fellow gun owners and rights advocates to stand up and get involved. Every one of us must engage in the battle, working for the candidates who are going up against the radical gun control zealots — defeating the party of gun control, by working for the party that isn’t dedicated to taking away our guns.

We must do this, even if the Republican candidate isn’t great on our issue, because right now, Democrats have declared war on our rights. The only way to change their position, and to wake up the squishy Republicans, is for GunVoters to turn out in droves, putting up signs, making phone calls, walking neighborhoods, and making sure that everyone in their family, their friends, their entire sphere of influence, is informed and activated to defeat those who oppose the Bill of Rights.

We didn’t make this a partisan fight, Democrats did. We’ll never make them change their minds by sitting on the sidelines or punishing weak-kneed Republicans by going hunting on Election Day. We must get busy, get involved, and demonstrate in November that the gun lobby is indeed alive and well, and we won’t tolerate open assault on our rights.

Practical Steps Toward Improving the NRA

(February 5, 2019) Over the years, I have often been pretty critical of the NRA and its leadership team. Even though I try to make a point of expressing my support for the organization and its mission, there are always some who see my criticism as an attack, and an attempt to tear down the organization. In this column, rather than simply pointing at the flaws and failures of the association, I want to address some practical and reasonable solutions and expectations.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to think that a 147-year old, $300 million plus, per year organization, with an elected board of 76 deeply entrenched directors, would or could suddenly shift course and completely revamp the way they do business. Even the famous Cincinnati Revolt in 1977, which was a ground-shaking event, only resulted in only minor changes in the long-term operations of the organization – and years of wrangling for power and control. Another result of the Cincinnati Revolt, was the inevitable restructuring of the rules to make sure that nothing like it could ever happen again. That started with the revolutionaries, putting up defenses against a counter-revolution, and then was continued by the “Old Guard” as they slowly regained power. Today, virtually all of the reforms of Cincinnati have been reversed or modified beyond recognition.

So, with all of the problems that the NRA is currently facing: A $30 million deficit, declining revenue and membership numbers, legal assaults and much frustration over their Carry Guard insurance and training program, accusations of illegal campaign spending, and suggestions of improper dealings with Russian agents, and a large segment of the membership upset over what they see as capitulation on core issues… What would be realistic expectations for reforms at NRA?

To begin with, the Board of Directors needs to establish very clear guidance to the Executive Vice President and staff to ensure that every communication, every policy, every strategy, and anything else that comes out of the organization is consistent with the core values and principles of the association and the Second Amendment. This should be backed up by an oversight subcommittee of the Board, composed of Second Amendment purists who will always place principles over politics. Too often, it seems that the political operatives are driving the boat, leaving principles behind in the name of pragmatism. Closer oversight from some purists on the Board would go a long way toward solving this problem.

Next, the Board must review the audit processes that should be in place to ensure full compliance with all state and federal fundraising and political spending laws and regulations. Everyone at NRA should be very aware that everything they do will be scrutinized by regulators, reporters, and political operatives looking for any irregularity or impropriety. With that awareness, it is totally inexcusable that there should be even the slightest hint or appearance of the organization straying from the straight and narrow. We know that accusations will always be thrown at us, so we must be sure that we are absolutely scrupulous and beyond reproach in all of our dealings.

Stories that the NRA accepted large donations from Russian citizens, and then used that money to support a presidential candidate, should be easy to refute. Accusations that the NRA used the same political advertising agencies as candidates they supported – suggesting that they were coordinating independent expenditures with those campaigns – should never even come up, and if they did, NRA should be able to very quickly disprove such accusations, but so far, they have refused to even answer any questions about the matter.

The roll-out of a major new program like NRA Carry Guard should be preceded by thorough examination of the insurance and solicitation laws of every state, to ensure that there would be no conflicts or compliance issues, but that apparently didn’t happen with Carry Guard. There should also have been in-depth discussion with the Training Division and the Board committee that oversees training, along with key training counselors around the country, before such a major training initiative was introduced, but again, that apparently didn’t happen. This has resulted in fines and lawsuits from Insurance Commissioners in several states, and confusion and anger among NRA Instructors. Where was the due diligence that would have avoided these problems? The Board must institute policies and procedures to make sure such mistakes and “bad optics” don’t recur, and those responsible for the blunders must be held accountable.

Next, the Board needs to review all vendor agreements, eliminate any unnecessary programs, and begin transitioning as much as possible back in-house. Currently, the NRA pays over $40 million a year to one PR and Advertising company. They also pay a telemarketing firm something in the neighborhood of $30 million a year, and they list four separate companies just to “advise” them on fundraising, at a total of over $3 million per year – just for advice!

Then there is the issue of executive compensation. While it is not unusual for executives in some major non-profit corporations – such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts or the Guggenheim Museum – to receive compensation in excess of $1 million dollars per year, these are typically professional executives who could earn such compensation at any number of similar organizations, and are funded by wealthy patrons and huge endowments. Such is not the case with Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox. They rose to their current positions via internal political maneuvering and being in the right place at the right time. Both would be hard-pressed to find employment in the $200 to $300k range as senior lobbyists in a DC firm, and wouldn’t even be considered for any sort of senior management positions.

The Board should review all executive compensation packages and bring them down to more reasonable levels. NRA executives should not be expected to work for free, but it is simply not right to be paying LaPierre almost a million and a half dollars per year while begging hard-working NRA members for $20 contributions.

The steps suggested here are not dramatic. They would not jeopardize the stability of the organization or damage its political clout in any way, nor would they be costly or difficult. On the contrary, these steps would stabilize the NRA, refocus it on its core missions, establish proper and long-lacking Board oversight of operations, save money, reduce costly mistakes, and restore the faith of members and former members in the NRA’s mission and leadership. These are all things that the NRA Board should have been doing all along, and needs to do now.

But instead of taking these reasonable, rational steps to improve and strengthen the NRA, scuttlebutt inside the organization suggests that the leadership is going to try to “solve” the problems by creating a for-profit entity, out from under the NRA non-profit umbrella and less accessible to the prying eyes of government regulators, nosy reporters, and “disgruntled members” like me. In other words, rather than fixing the problems, they are going to try and hide them from view.

Let’s hope the rumors aren’t true, and that the NRA Board of Directors has the will and integrity to do what needs to be done.