New Orleans Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA), dealing with all of NRA’s internal and external problems in recent years must be getting advice from his buddy, President Trump, in how to deal with his mess. Trump must have assured him that it was like the novel coronavirus and would just go away, magically disappear. LaPierre likely swallowed that story hook, line, and sinker, but bad news for LaPierre and the NRA: wrong again! Their troubles are not going away, and they can’t run and hide from them or spin them as little more than a political play by their enemies. Leticia James, the Attorney General of New York, where the NRA was incorporated 148 years ago, giving her jurisdiction over the nonprofit and tax-exempt affairs of the organization, has now filed a civil suit to dissolve the organization for violating self-dealing rules, ignoring nonprofit requirements, and practicing irredeemable corruption. Bam!
We’re talking years of legal wrangling for sure, and it’s already started. The NRA counter-sued of course. The Washington DC attorney joined New York in also suing for violations in the District. New York also filed suit personally against LaPierre and three other NRA execs asking for tens of millions in restitution. Lawyers will do fine in this mess, as always, but the five million members of the NRA are in the meat grinder.
There’s a list of charges a mile long, but here’s the abbreviated version:
- personal travel consultant for LaPierre was paid $13.5 million, largely on no-bid contracts.
- private flights were chartered for LaPierre’s wife and his niece.
- LaPierre took frequent trips to the Bahamas on the N.R.A.’s dime, often decamping to a 108-foot yacht called “Illusions” that was owned by an N.R.A. contractor.
- LaPierre lavished gifts from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman on his inner circle.
- LaPierre put his niece up at a Four Seasons hotel for eight nights at a cost of more than $12,000.
- improper actions cost the organization $64 million over three years.
- false reporting of annual filings both to the state and the I.R.S.
- LaPierre negotiated a post-employment contract worth $17 million essentially with himself and without board approval.
- LaPierre hired a convicted embezzler as a personal assistant who was repeatedly accused of using N.R.A. funds for her own expenses.
- LaPierre hired a general counsel with only 18-months experience as essentially a “co-conspirator.”
- LaPierre’s treasurer failed to disclose a personal relationship he had with the chief executive of a company paid $1.4 million by the N.R.A., and after his retirement was paid $30,000 a month for consulting work he did not perform.
There’s more, but you get the picture. And, this doesn’t even talk about the internal conflict within the NRA that has been raging in recent years, the whistleblowers that are funneling manure out the backdoor to prosecutors, the chance of criminal charges on referral, and maybe even problems with the IRS.
Here’s what’s going to happen. It will take a year or two. The NRA will continue having financial problems, but will not be dissolved. It will be weakened, and that’s a good thing. Maybe it will go back to being a gun safety and education organization, who knows? LaPierre is toast. He and his crew are history. They just haven’t gone out the door. The NRA board in a quiet moment over the next year after the election, will offer their heads to New York to save the organization. That’s their job. Having not done it for years, eventually, they will have to actually govern the organization, and surprise themselves, and do the right thing.