Suicide Watch at the NRA

  • 08/26/2019 12:00 AM
  • Source: AAN
  • by: Daniel Oliver
Suicide Watch at the NRA
Most gun deaths in the US are by suicide, an activity the NRA seems to be currently attempting. The organization appears to be imploding, and at a time (after two mass shootings and at the start of another presidential campaign) when it is badly needed to help preserve the Second Amendment.

The trouble—the visible trouble—began last April when Oliver North announced that he would not serve a second term as NRA president. His stunning announcement came at about the same time that New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who has called the NRA "a terrorist organization," started an investigation into NRA finances. The NRA is incorporated in New York State, while the NRA Foundation, its affiliated charity, is incorporated in the District of Columbia.

North's resignation as president followed a power struggle which North, having unsuccessfully called for the resignation of NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre, lost. North said the NRA had "a clear crisis" and needed to investigate financial improprieties. Uh-oh.

Then the flak began to fly. North was accused of having a sweetheart deal with the NRA's publicity firm, Ackerman McQueen, which, according to LaPierre, paid North "millions of dollars." The amount may seem high, especially to NRA's small donors, people who give only tens of dollars, but without knowing what North—a high profile individual—did, doesn't seem like a lethal charge. The NRA had sued Ackerman and North had taken Ackerman's side.

Then in June, the NRA suspended its second-in-command and top lobbyist, Christopher W. Cox, one of the public faces of the NRA, who subsequently resigned.

A good rule of thumb, certainly in Washington but probably everywhere, is that when there’s a lot of money sloshing around, you can be almost certain someone is pinching part of it. The NRA is huge: in 2017, its total revenue was $378 million; in 2018 it was $412 million.

Where all that money went is a good question, of course. We don’t know. What we do know is that Wayne LaPierre sure knows how to spend it. He billed the NRA $39,000 for a single day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique. He spent $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and spent tens of thousands of dollars on his wife’s makeup. And he almost succeeded in getting the NRA to buy him a $6 million mansion in Texas, for, er, security reasons.

Mr. LaPierre is married but has no children. The NRA is his life: he is the NRA (or at least may think he is), in which case what’s wrong with spending its money as if it were his own? Answer: a lot.

According to Pro Publica, William A. Brewer III, one of the NRA’s outside counsels, billed the NRA $24 million for a thirteen-month period; and in the first quarter of 2019 was billing at the rate of $97,000 per day. Ouch!

Clearly, the NRA has problems, exacerbated by its corporate structure: it has approximately 76 board members. It’s a reasonable bet that any organization that has a board of 76 members isn’t being run by the board. Who is running the NRA? Wayne LaPierre apparently, and, it seems, without the supervision that a board is supposed to provide.

Bad as that all sounds, it has just gotten worse, much, much worse: just this week the NRA announced that it will no longer retain the law firm of Cooper & Kirk, one of Washington’s leading law firms, to represent it. (Full disclosure: I have known and admired Charles Cooper for over three decades.) Cooper is a pro—the kind of person who belongs on, and who has been on, the shortlist for attorney general of the US.

In a statement following the NRA’s action, Mr. Cooper said, “Throughout the over three decades in which I have represented the NRA, I have adhered to the highest standards of professionalism.” He said he owed an “ethical duty of loyalty to the NRA itself” and not to “any individual officers or directors.” Exactly. That must have stung LaPierre, as, it’s a good bet, it should have.

Too much money and too little board supervision is a recipe for trouble. To the outsider, the NRA looks rotten on the inside. If the NRA board members, who probably have power if they choose to exercise it, won’t take appropriate action, the NRA will commit suicide—with a likely assist from the New York attorney general, proving, once again, that guns don’t kill; people do.

That will not be beneficial for the good people of the United States, or their freedom.

Daniel Oliver is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.

Email Daniel Oliver at [email protected]
 Source: AAN
Tags: Issues: Guns, Culture War, AAN Exclusive; Categories:

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