USA – -(AmmoLand.com)-The purpose of this column is to explain what has recently transpired at NRA, and to refute the false narratives being spread about the Association. Responsible board members have remained silent until now for legal reasons, but I believe what follows should be said.
Over a year ago, as NRA’s former treasurer was departing, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for a renewed emphasis on transparency and compliance with best practices for the Association and all of its vendors. Among other things, every vendor was required to provide extra detail backing up their invoices, and additional levels of detail on NRA operations were included on the Association’s tax returns.
LaPierre’s efforts proved to be prescient. Officials in several jurisdictions began targeting the NRA, investigating how legal loopholes might be used to permanently shut down the Association. But it turns out that LaPierre’s good governance program may very well have created legal impediments to that, blocking efforts to harm NRA.
Ironically, some of those same transparency measures that may protect NRA from hostile public officials were spun by the anti-gun media to fuel a false narrative about NRA’s financial health and spending habits. The media painted a fake portrait of a sputtering organization in decline, led by selfish executives lavishly spending member monies. That the media should present such a false narrative is not surprising. The surprising part is that some gun owners actually believed them.
In any event, LaPierre’s initiative to ensure that every NRA vendor provide extra invoice detail required cooperation from the vendors themselves. Apparently, all but one vendor fully complied. That vendor was among the NRA’s largest, a public relations firm deeply embedded in the NRA’s highest-profile, most sensitive operations. The vendor was so deeply entrenched, for so long, that it apparently had developed independent financial relationships with several NRA officials – including former NRA President Oliver North. Instead of simply providing the required additional invoice detail, the vendor apparently resisted.
LaPierre nevertheless insisted that the required detail be provided. Unfortunately, rather than provide it, there instead came an orchestrated effort to force LaPierre out. An ultimatum was delivered to LaPierre at this Spring’s annual meeting by high-profile NRA officials with apparent financial ties to the vendor (and resultant conflicts of interest): either resign immediately and receive a comfortable exit package, or else face the public disclosure of supposedly damaging and embarrassing information. The threatened information dump included details of LaPierre’s wardrobe expenses, apparently incurred directly by the vendor on its own recommendation over almost 15 years, for LaPierre’s national TV and other high-profile appearances.
LaPierre’s response to the ultimatum was swift and decisive: he refused to step down, disclosed the threats that were made, and accelerated legal efforts to force the vendor to provide the invoice detail. Then, just as had been threatened, the supposedly damaging information about LaPierre was publicly released. The anti-gun media predictably ate it up, and some gun owners fell for the spin.
As an aside, to those that know him, LaPierre is actually noted for his modest everyday wardrobe. As the public face of over 100 million gun owners, appropriate clothing for high-profile appearances is a justifiable corporate expense. The cost over the 15 years cited in the information dump was less than 0.007 % (7/1000ths of one percent) of the nearly $4 billion in revenue LaPierre helped raise during the same period to preserve our Second Amendment rights.
NRA has since severed its nearly 40-year relationship with the vendor. Former NRA President Oliver North abruptly left the NRA annual meeting midstream, missing key appearances, and was not re-elected. Other high-profile relationships have been severed. Lawsuits are now flying between NRA and the vendor, government officials are reveling in their investigations, and the liberal media is eating it up. And some gun owners are still swallowing it.
Had LaPierre bowed to the threats he received and “retired,” the vendor and its agents would likely now control NRA and its considerable resources. LaPierre’s good governance program likely would have been abandoned. The NRA likely would have been left much more vulnerable to hostile government officials. And a steady, potent voice that has skillfully led the organization through both triumph and tragedy for decades would have been silenced, just as the most contentious presidential election cycle in U.S. history is getting under way.
The future of freedom itself is at stake in the 2020 elections, and gun owners need LaPierre’s proven experience and leadership if we are to prevail once again (LaPierre is credited with making the key difference in electing U.S. Presidents, and countless legislators). LaPierre’s absence at this critical, historic time could dramatically affect the 2020 outcome, and pave the way for an attack on the Second Amendment like we’ve never seen before.
Despite this, a small wave of dissent cascades among a few NRA board members, who for varying reasons of their own seek LaPierre’s immediate ouster. Some seek personal advancement at LaPierre’s expense. Others fear personal liability and think, wrongly, that calling for LaPierre’s head will insulate them. Some have succumbed to media spin. And others either can’t take the heat, or mistakenly think that political winds have shifted against LaPierre (they haven’t). Ironically, they have unwittingly aligned themselves with the former vendor in calling for LaPierre’s departure.
A handful of gun owners have been misled by this faction of board members, or by biased media reports, or both. They don’t realize that LaPierre himself is the one who insisted on disclosing the very things they now incorrectly blame him for. They don’t realize that they wouldn’t even be aware of those things if not for LaPierre. And his program of transparency has postured the organization to survive a regulatory onslaught bent on destroying NRA. Thanks to LaPierre and the accounting team led by NRA’s new treasurer, there is good reason to be confident in NRA’s accounting practices and commitment to good governance.
LaPierre has consistently done the right thing for NRA, not because it was easy or convenient, but because it was right. He has not been the problem; he has been the solution.
LaPierre was re-elected unanimously by the NRA board at the annual meeting this Spring, just as these key events were happening. Contrary to social media lore, every board member had ample opportunity to vote “no,” challenge him, or support someone else, under familiar procedures in use for decades. No one did. Any board member claiming otherwise is not telling the truth.
We have incredibly difficult and consequential battles ahead. No one is better equipped, more experienced, or has a better track record to take gun owners through them, than LaPierre. Further division will only damage the Second Amendment. Now is the time for everyone to heal, to stand together, and to prevail over the real enemy: those trying to destroy freedom itself.