NRA’s Internal Drama Exposes Big Money Mess

New Orleans         Usually when the National Rifle Association, better known as the NRA, is in the news, it’s bad news for the rest of us.  Usually it means that they are once again painting themselves and a few of their toadying politicians in a corner while they defend the indefensible, like standing in the way of even the mildest gun law reforms after mass shootings killing scores.  For a change there was some news of a different sort giving the public a glimpse of the big money madness and internal conflict within the ostensibly nonprofit organization.  The drama-rama of the NRA is more comedy than tragedy and probably more in the order of a B-roll from the “Game of Thrones” that wasn’t good enough to make it on air with HBO.

News reports indicate that the NRA sued its longtime, multi-decade media and public relations firm, Oklahoma City-based Ackerman McQueen, the architect of much of its “wrest the gun out of my old dead hands” branding.  The suit argues that the PR firm and its subsidiaries were more than happy to put their hot hands on $40 million of the NRA resources, but were unwilling to provide backup details, as required by their contract, on how the money was really spent.  Ackerman McQueen claims that they already have the information and that they have cooperated fully with the NRA on these requests, but there’s a Notre Dame level of smoke coming out of this case for there not to be some actual fire, especially since the NRA, Ackerman McQueen, and its chief Wayne LaPierre, as the expression goes, have been “thick as thieves” for decades.

Adding fuel to this fire is the fact that Ackerman McQueen manages NRATV.  The streaming channel is often called the “voice of the NRA,” and has endured its own controversy over hair-on-fire messaging complete with KKK hoods for children and wild accusations that have positioned the organization farther and farther to the extreme right.  Oliver North, the chair of the NRA, infamous as the Lt. Colonel in the Iran-Contra scandals, has a contract with NRATV and has been refusing without their permission to disclose the details, despite the NRA claiming correctly that as a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit it has to report such information on its IRS 990 filing.  The board reportedly is divided between pro-and-anti Ackerman McQueen forces, catching LaPierre in middle to boot, though the majority obviously had the votes to file the suit, partially because the NRA’s membership is falling and the $300 million a year operation has shown losses both of the last two years.  The anti-Ackerman members seem to believe that the rightwing extremism could hurt their second amendment fights.  Hard to pick sides on that one.

What does seem truly Shakespearean is the accusations of conflicts of interest between Ackerman McQueen and the NRA’s outside lawyer, William A. Brewer III.  Ackerman McQueen says he has a conflict of interest because their two top officials in the PR firm are his father-in-law and brother-in-law.  Wow!  That must be a tense Thanksgiving dinner!  Others snipe at the fact that Brewer and his firm are charging the NRA one-million per month, largely to handle the New York State lawsuit where the NRA is alleging an infringement on their first amendment rights since New York has argued that financial services companies should refrain from joint ventures and branding with the NRA.  Brewer defends his fees saying his law firm is a “premium” outfit.

Who knows where the fire is?  The rest of us can hope that it keeps raging, like a fire in a forest or the fields, allowing something new to grow.

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Please Bus Migrants to Sanctuary Cities

New Orleans       Put your head in your hands for a second, because this is almost mind blowing.  Yes, we’re talking about the latest confusion about the Trump administration’s immigration policy or policies or whatever you would call this mayhem and mess.

Over recent days word slipped out that some of the rabid, mouth foaming aides, like Stephen Miller, wanted to put migrants and their families crossing the southern US border with Mexico onto buses and pack them out to so-called sanctuary cities.  This was supposed to be a punishment of some kind for these cities because of their unwillingness to act as an unpaid local police force for a fraught federal immigration policy.  Everyone involved at ICE, Homeland Security, and the White House then denied that this was a policy recommendation or anything more than some crazy spitballing fueled by too much caffeine.  Just fake news by a biased, liberal press.

In short, never a real proposal, just a wild hair, until…President Trump, who increasingly is infamous for never rejecting a bizarre proposal if it can divide and inflame his base, seized the idea as his own and started insisting that, yes, roll up the buses, and send the migrants from south Texas and southern Arizona to sanctuary cities.  At least do so for several news cycles.

Here’s what I say.  Call his bluff.  Please, please President Trump, send these desperate migrant families seeking asylum, opportunity, and safety to the cities of America, especially sanctuary cities, where they will finally be supported and cared for with the historically generous and open-handed spirit of the real America.  Get them out of tented detention centers, hot and dusty, or repurposed Walmart stores in south Texas, and let go where there are jobs, social services, and people who know that we need new workers and fresh blood to build America.  Let them come to the cities that have been built and welded together by immigrants for generations.  Let them go anywhere as long as you get them out of border detention camps!

Some mayors of US cities have the right idea and have condemned Trump’s attempt to use migrant families as political pawns in his bitter, hateful, demagogic campaign posturing.  Mayors in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other places like Montgomery County, Maryland, that have large immigrant populations have said, hey Mr. President, send them over here.

Cities and towns throughout the United States are crying for population to fill jobs, students for schools so they won’t have to close, customers for stores, and families to pay taxes.  How about putting the welcome sign on the city limits in these communities so that the Trump buses know where to pull in, stop, and unload families to a real home rather than a prison camp?

Make Trump do the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reason.  Let sanctuary cities be real sanctuaries.  Please.

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