Let’s Prepare a Texas Welcome for the NRA

January 20, 2021

Texas Standard

            New Orleans      I realize that talking about guns and their giant conservative enabler, the National Rifle Association, will have many of you thinking that we’re talking about the siege at the US Capitol and all the wannabe gunsels threatening politicians and organizing militias. Maybe we should, but instead we’re getting ready to welcome the NRA, that helps make so much of this craziness possible, to their new home in Texas.

You may have missed the news in all of the recent excitement that the NRA is declaring bankruptcy and terminating its domicile registration in New York State in order to reincorporate as a nonprofit in Texas.         Seems the Attorney General in New York was way too much in their grill about how they had mixed and mingled their tax-exempt funds with their political funds on one hand and been up to their nose in self-dealing, expense padding, and general featherbedding of their top executives, especially CEO Wayne LaPierre. Contributions were down, their board was tired of answering questions from newspaper investigators, and their tax exemption was in jeopardy, so the NRA decided it was time to run. The NRA had already loaned and paid for a big chunk of a Dallas-area mansion for LaPierre, so he will be able to drive to work rather than flying to the NRA Virginia headquarters, making them think this move would be no problem.

So, welcome to Texas, but they may have some surprises, if they think that by running. they will be able to hide, especially when it comes to how they spend their money. Having registered and run nonprofits in Texas over the years, I have some familiarity with the legal pros and cons of registrations there.         Let’s just say, it’s not California or New York for that matter, but it’s not a walk in the park for an operation like the NRA trying pull the covers up over all of is money-monkey-business. I reached out for our esteemed legal expert, Doug Young, based in Austin, to make sure I wasn’t suffering from some sort of pandemic-induced confusion about the requirements of Texas nonprofit law. He shared that,

Section 22.353 of the Business Organizations Code requires that the books and annual reports of financial activity (each transaction of income and expenditure) must be made available to the public for inspection at the non-profit corporation’s principal office. However, § 22.353 doesn’t apply if the corporation solicits funds only from the members of the corporation, or the corporation doesn’t intend to solicit and receive and does not actually receive contributions in any fiscal year in an amount exceeding $10k from any source other than members.         Section 22.351 requires disclosure of such part of the annual reports to any member that is relevant to the members “proper” request for same. (Whatever proper is).

The NRA receives truckloads of money from a variety of sources other than its dues-paying membership, so there is no loophole that they can crawl through to prevent their members or the public from thoroughly inspecting their finances. If they ever make the mistake of qualifying for Community Development Block Grant, then their board meetings would be open to the public as well.

The biggest problem is going to be finding folks willing to sit in the NRA offices in Texas to go through their books, but here’s a call for volunteers to get ready now. The NRA didn’t realize that the signs saying “Don’t Mess with Texas” apply to them as well.


The Roots of “Stop the Steal” in the Attack on ACORN

January 19, 2021

NY Times

            New Orleans      The arc of justice is long, but when people see it coming, they don’t stay silent. First, a text from the most devoted Times’ reader and power walker in the entire city of Houston, making sure I had seen the lead piece in the Times’ editorial page. A bit later, my friend and comrade was forwarding the links inside the piece to assure that I missed nothing! With the morning sun came another text from one of the nation’s preeminent scholars of community organizations giving the alert and adding the question, “Opening for ACORN revisionism?” As time zones changed, texts from Little Rock, the Bay Area, and elsewhere were joined by emails and links flooding my inbox. All of this was triggered by a hard to miss piece called, “’Stop the Steal’ Didn’t Start with Trump” written by Jamelle Bouie.

What does Bouie have to say? He draws a line over the last twenty years of accusations by Republicans hollering “Wolf!” every time they lose an election, and more pointedly links it to the underlying racism that defines this strategy as the party and its candidates try to hold onto power. He doesn’t miss the fact that prominently at the center of their attack has been a constant targeting of ACORN. He brings ACORN into the story in 2004, writing that…

Swing-state Republicans accused the group of “manufacturing voters,” and federal prosecutors looked, unsuccessfully, for evidence of wrongdoing. Later, Karl Rove would press President Bush’s second attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to fire a number of U.S. attorneys for failure to investigate voter fraud allegations, leading to a scandal that eventually led to Gonzales’s resignation in 2007.

Bouie doesn’t mince words as he hits the broad strokes of the continued attack on ACORN and its voter registration work in the runup to the 2008 first Obama campaign with the familiar benchmarks, like the McCain accusation during the presidential debate. He notes that Trump claimed that Obama had lost “by a lot” in his second election in 2012, and in the highlight reel that, “According to one survey taken after the election, 49 percent of Republican voters said they thought ACORN had stolen the election for the president.”

It keeps on going down from there along the familiar path of polarization, hate, and racism during the Trump years to the inevitable result where…

The narrative of fraud and election theft that spurred the mob that stormed the Capitol would be unintelligible without the work of the Republican Party, which inculcated this idée fixe in its voters. “Stop the Steal” wasn’t a Trump innovation as much as it was a new spin on an old product line that, even after the violence on Jan. 6, Republicans are still selling.

If newspaper reports are the “first draft of history,” Bouie’s piece is something closer to the second draft. He could have as easily included the attacks on ACORN in the battlegrounds in 2000 during the Bush election, as he could the Ashcroft story. Bouie assembles more facts, so we’re getting nearer something like the truths they tell and teach, although in writing the brief against the Republicans and the wild right, he doesn’t include the assignment of any responsibility to the Times itself, which helped lead and legitimize the attacks.

Yes, this is progress, and maybe even a bit of revisionism, and thanks to Bouie for that! At the same time, it’s probably old fashioned to want accountability, exoneration, and, dare I say, justice, for ACORN and its members, leaders, and staff, but I’m still working in that old school. I’m not bitter, I’m busy, and will continue waiting in the belief that in the end the work writes its own history and can’t be denied.