With the accusations, admissions, and compromising complications surrounding current NRA “leaders,” many politicians wisely declined invitations to appear at the event this year. But Donald Trump can’t resist a crowd, and he’d like to shore up his damaged reputation with gun owners – though it’s likely that he and his handlers don’t realize just how much damage his push to ban bump stocks, and his support for “red flag” laws during his presidency actually did.
Appearing at the NRA-ILA event is fairly low-risk for Trump and his base supporters. But his friendly photos with Wayne LaPierre, and any supportive comments he makes about the NRA’s embattled CEO, will undoubtedly be used against him, especially since the evidence against LaPierre is so easily available and compelling. As LaPierre’s failures and the corruption of his administration become more widely known and part of the record in court, the media will be highly critical of Trump for propping up LaPierre.
But Trump has weathered much more damning associations in the past, so this one will probably barely be a ripple in the larger scheme of things.
Trump should remember though, that he needs strong support from the rights community, and he’s already done serious damage to that support with his bump-stock and “red flag” positions. Adding a last-minute rescue of the man many see as once leading but now destroying the NRA, is not going to sit well with the hard-line rights advocates who are also the most politically active members of the “gun culture.” Not only will these activists not cast a ballot for Trump, more importantly, they won’t go to work for him, and instead, they’ll use their influence against him. So it ends up a loss of votes from those activists, along with many within their sphere of influence, and the loss of any votes those activists might have recruited to Trump’s support.
From LaPierre’s side, Trump’s appearance represents a huge opportunity.
LaPierre and his handlers know that the loyal opposition, the people they call “the enemy within,” are going to do their best to challenge LaPierre and his cronies during the Members’ Meeting on Saturday. They’re counting on Trump to talk about his “good friend” Wayne LaPierre’s virtues and political acumen and tell the crowd how lucky they are to have such a great American working for them and guarding their rights. They plan to do whatever they can to shut down any criticism of LaPierre in the Members’ Meeting, and that objective depends on support from the NRA members in attendance. If a majority of the members in the meeting are opposed to LaPierre or are open to hearing more about the corruption scandal, then, President Charles Cotton will have a harder time shutting down the “dissident faction.”
If, on the other hand, the majority of members in the meeting are “low-information” NRA members, buoyed by Trump’s hollow praise of LaPierre, and believing the blatant lies of the NRA establishment, then Cotton will easily block the opposition, hold a quick Rah-rah session, and adjourn the meeting with nothing being accomplished.
The last time LaPierre faced a serious challenge to his personal power, was way back in 1997, when my father was 1st Vice President of the Association, in line to become President the following year. Dad and a majority of the Board were upset with the way LaPierre was allowing vendors and outside contractors – particularly the PR firm of Ackerman McQueen – to set their own terms, work without detailed contracts, submit and get paid for open-ended invoices, and involve themselves in internal NRA business. The Board had instructed LaPierre to cancel the contract with Ack-Mac, and he reluctantly agreed, then reported back to the Board that Ack-Mac was gone, replaced by a new PR company called Mercury Group. Then it turned out that Mercury Group was a newly created, wholly-owned subsidiary of Ackerman McQueen, managed by the same Ack-Mac executive, Tony Makris, that had been handling the NRA account for some time.
In order to save himself on that occasion, LaPierre relied on actor, Charlton Heston to come to his rescue. By manipulating definitions in the Bylaws, LaPierre and Makris were able to get Heston elected to a 1-year seat on the NRA Board of Directors. Then, in the subsequent Board meeting, he was nominated to run for 1st Vice President against my father. Heston won that election by 4 votes, then left to do a radio interview, during which he repeatedly declared that AK-47s are “inappropriate” for civilians to own and they should be restricted. Makris and LaPierre eventually got Heston on the right script, and he did some good things for the Association during his 5-year tenure as President. But Heston also gave LaPierre a taste of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and he apparently liked it.
Heston flew only on chartered jets, stayed in only the best accommodations in the best hotels, and was chauffeured about in luxury limousines, with LaPierre and Makris right by his side, enjoying the same perks (all being paid for by the NRA, of course). It’s also worth mentioning that the President and two Vice Presidents constitute the Executive Compensation Committee, which sets the pay for LaPierre and other NRA executives. In 1996, LaPierre was making between $200k and $300k, but once Neal Knox and Albert Ross were replaced by Heston and Kayne Robinson as 1st and 2nd VP, respectively, LaPierre’s compensation almost immediately doubled and kept climbing, Peaking at $2.2 million in 2018, and currently sitting at $1.6 million per year, all funded my your membership dues.
As in 1997, LaPierre is again depending on a celebrity to save him: President Donald Trump.
While LaPierre’s fallen out with Makris and Ackerman McQueen, filing lawsuits against both, he has a new Rasputin whispering in his ear, in the form of Angus McQueen’s son-in-law, attorney William Brewer. Where Ackerman McQueen was pulling down some $40 million per year from NRA, with Makris drawing several million more for his terrible TV hunting show, Bill Brewer helped replace both of them at the bargain price of just over $2 million per month, some $30 million per year, according to what information we can find.
It was questioning the outrageous billing from Brewer’s law firm that resulted in the Nominating Committee deciding not to nominate Olliver North for the traditional second year as President of the Association. Then when North suggested that LaPierre should resign, in light of the damning and well-supported accusations that had come out against him just prior to the 2019 Annual Meetings, LaPierre accused him of extortion. Since then, the NRA has filed at least two lawsuits against North, and there’s currently an ethics charge filed against him by LaPierre apologist, Tom King, calling for the unprecedented step of kicking North completely out of the Association for “conspiring” against LaPierre. Of course, Chris Cox and his top deputy, along with numerous other NRA employees and contractors, were also dumped for “conspiring” against LaPierre.
At the Members’ Meeting in Indianapolis in 2019, an effort was made to pass a resolution of No Confidence against Wayne LaPierre and his sycophants on the NRA Board, but that effort was side-tracked and eventually quashed by LaPierre loyalists from the Board. A group of Directors had agreed to nominate Allen West for the office of Executive Vice President in the Board meeting that followed, but that plan fell apart, and LaPierre ran unopposed.
This year, the members are going to again have the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with LaPierre and company – unless the “leaders” are successful at shutting down those efforts – and West will be nominated to run for EVP in the Board meeting on Monday. The results of the Members Meeting and the subsequent Board meeting will give a good indication of whether the NRA will be able to survive as an independent entity or be virtually bankrupted and put under court control for the next several years.
Will Donald Trump save Wayne LaPierre, and assist in the destruction of the NRA?
We’ll know the answer to that question in just a few days.
If you are able to attend the NRA Members Meeting in Houston on Saturday, please do so. It would also be helpful if you would write to your NRA Board members, urging them to stop the destruction of the Association, dump LaPierre, and restore integrity to the NRA by casting their secret ballot for Allen West. Their names and contact information can be found on the back pages of every NRA magazine.
I hope to see you in Houston.