Holstering A Career: Wayne LaPierre Resigns From The NRA Executive

Second Amendment


Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The now departed chief executive of the National Rifle
Association of America (NRA) should know. Wayne LaPierre’s
time had come to resemble a dictatorship in a hurry,
pinching the silver and stomping on the dissenters on its
way out. Allegations were already being made at the NRA’s
annual meeting in Indianapolis in 2019, many barbed with the
question as to where money from donors was actually
going.

There were, for instance, LaPierre’s said
suit purchases from the Zegna store in Beverly Hills between
2004 and 2017 amounting to a head shaking $274,695.03, for
which Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s former PR firm, was
billed for
. The NRA also reimbursed LaPierre for gifts
sent to the organisation’s vendors, donors and special
recipients, far exceeding federal tax limits.

The
NRA’s 2019 tax filing disclosed that the body’s
executives (former and current) had received somewhere up to
$1.4 million in violation of non-profit regulations. The
2020 tax filing revealed a continuing trend. That year,
LaPierre received
1.7 million in compensation, including a $455,000
bonus.

Things have been messy at the world’s most
famous gun lobby charity for some time. The New York
Attorney General Letitia James has busied herself with
pursuing LaPierre and various top-placed individuals in the
organisation on grounds of corruption. A lawsuit
stretching back
to August 2020 seeking the NRA’s
dissolution asserts that millions of dollars funded a whole
slew of personal benefits, including private jet travel,
exorbitantly priced meals and family trips to the Bahamas.
In doing so, it alleged that the NRA’s funds were
mismanaged, a number of state and federal laws breached,
including the body’s own bylaws and policies, and some $64
million lost over the course of three years.

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With
mulish determination, the NRA fought back, attempting, without
success
, to dismiss the complaint or change the court
venue from Manhattan to more convivial surroundings in
Albany. Daringly, it even tried to file for Chapter 11
bankruptcy protection in a federal bankruptcy court in
Texas, hoping to reconstitute the body in that state. In May
2021, the court dismissed
the claims
, finding “that the NRA did not file the
bankruptcy petition in good faith.”

In March 2022,
LaPierre and the NRA Corporate Secretary and General Counsel
John Frazer, ran the second act in trying to dismiss the
lawsuit. Inventively, arguments about constitutionality and
jurisdiction were advanced. Justice Joel Cohen of the New
York County State Supreme Court was unimpressed, though
accepted the NRA’s arguments against its dissolution by
the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). But in June 2022,
Justice Cohen rejected
claims
by the organisation that “the Attorney
General’s investigation was unconstitutionally retaliatory
or selective.” The AG’s investigation had been
instigated following “reports of serious misconduct and it
uncovered additional evidence that, at a bare minimum,
undermines any suggestion that was a mere pretext to
penalize the NRA for its constitutionally protected
activities.”

Two further assaults on the AG’s case
were mounted, one in September 2022, which found that James
could
appoint an independent monitor
to oversee the NRA’s
accounts as part of the lawsuit, and a last ditch effort in
January this year, which was swatted by the New York State
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department. The
trial date of January 8 was secure.

A few days before
the trial’s opening, a $100,000 settlement between the OAG
and Joshua Powell, the body’s former Executive Director of
Operations and Chief of Staff, left
James crowing
. “Joshua Powell’s admission of
wrongdoing and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation confirm what
we have alleged for years: the NRA and its senior leaders
are financially corrupt.”

In the opening stages of
the civil trial, Monica Connell, New York’s Assistant
Attorney-General, explained
to a six-member jury that, “The NRA allowed Wayne LaPierre
and his group of insiders … to operate the NRA as
‘Wayne’s World’ for decades.” (Connell could have
surely done better than refer to the Mike Myers-Dana Carvey
comedy dating from 1992.)

Connell went on to describe
tyrant overlords turned kleptomaniacs. “This case is about
corruption in a charity. It’s about breaches of trust,
it’s about power. People taking their hard-earned money
and donate it to charities they believe in. It doesn’t
matter what the cause is. They should be able to trust that
the hard-earned money they donate is going to advance the
mission of that charity.”

Where, when, for the NRA?
For decades, it has fetishised, moralised, and upheld the
purest virtues of carrying heavy weaponry in civilian life.
To be sovereign is to be armed; any laws regulating the use
of weapons best reserved for the military is an affront to
the Second Amendment’s constitutional decency and the
rugged principles of Frontier Man and Woman. Massacres at
nightclubs, schools and universities were simply the product
of ill minds, not the ease with which one could get a
weapon. Better still, give everyone a weapon. Even now, the
departing LaPierre declares
that “the NRA’s mission, programming, and fight for
freedom have never been more secure.”

That said,
financial probity and a good nose for accounts matter. To
that end, there is something richly fitting, if ironic, that
economics and a concern about the use of finances should be
the telling factor in the fall of numbers in the NRA.
Gun-control lobbies and regulators may scream themselves
hoarse about stalled reforms, but they could have hardly
hoped for better news than that reported
by Stephen Gutowski in February last year.

At the
time, LaPierre told attendees of the NRA’s most recent
board meeting that the organisation had shrunk to 4.3
million numbers. Such a membership still seems impressive,
till you realise that the fall in numbers approximates to
about one million subscribers since the tide of corruption
began battering the organisation. Between 2021 and 2022, revenue
fell
by almost $24 million, or 11 percent. But expenses
ballooned by 5.5 percent, or $11.5 million.

The
carefully chosen, if typically anodyne words in a
presentation prepared for the group’s finance committee in
January 2023 noted
that “Membership/Contribution performance has continued to
experience softness through 2022.” James, through her
office, is ensuring the experience is also going to be a
hard one.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth
Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He currently lectures
at RMIT University. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

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