Three Pillars of Conservative Power are Teetering

New Orleans        I’ll be honest I’m enjoying reading every line of this.

Page 6 of the Wall Street Journal had another article on the high-life high jinks of Wayne LaPierre, the chief muckety-muck of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Earlier they had reported on some $270,000 worth of clothing that LaPierre had charged to a vendor.  Today, they revealed that the vendor was Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma City based public relations and media contractor for decades to the NRA, and a company with whom LaPierre had historically been thick-as-thieves.

The other shoe that dropped was not related to haberdashery, but travel.  A letter was leaked that Ackerman McQueen had sent the NRA board about $240,000 worth of travel expenses that LaPierre had charged to the company’s credit card without adequate documentation.  The junkets included trips to the Bahamas and Italy.  All of this could be grist for the mill in the New York State investigation about the NRA’s tax status of course.  It also indicates the wounds are still bleeding in the internal disputes within the NRA over the falling out between LaPierre and his forces on the board versus the Ackerman McQueen allies.  Hey, LaPierre had their credit card for a reason, and I would bet money that none of these half-million bucks worth of expenditures would have every hit the light of day if they hadn’t fallen out.  Meanwhile LaPierre was being paid $1.4 million a year according to the 2017 IRS 990 filing for the NRA with the IRS.

That’s not all of the good news.  The scourge of workers and people-first policies in the name of business, the Chamber of Commerce, was front page news in their fall from influence, if not grace.  Executive salaries are up of course but lobbying expenditures and corporate donations are down in recent years.  Reportedly Trump wouldn’t shake their lobbyists hand, because they didn’t back him in the 2016 race.  Furthermore, his wild-right roll has made their traditional business-first conservationism passé.  Republican congressmen and senators were routinely quoted saying their emperor has no clothes anymore.  Meanwhile they are having an internal shake up as well, because they were out of step with big corporate power on social issues like gender and sexual discrimination.  They even have had to revise their vote-scoring system to boost the scores of some of the hated Democrats.  Their boss, Thomas Donahue, made $6.6 million in 2017, travels in a chauffeured SUV in DC with a two-man security detail, flies the chamber’s private jet to his Florida vacation home, and brings his doctor along on overseas trips.

Nonprofit DC lobbying is great work if you can get it, or so it seems.

All of this was in the businessman’s daily news source, Rupert Murdoch’s The Wall Street Journal.  The editorial and op-ed pages can still peel paint off a car, but the rest of the book is burning up the track.

Old line conservatives and Republicans of all stripes must be screaming in the middle of the night when central pillars of their house like the Journal, the NRA, and the Chamber of Commerce are showing deep cracks and roof cave-ins, leaving them few of the usual places to hide.


Please enjoy Kris Kelly’s Birthplace.

Thanks to KABF.


Related Party Transactions Tripping Up the NRA

New Orleans        When it comes to full on violence, the NRA is not “Game of Thornes” or “Barry.”  The National Rifle Association (NRA) likes its guns, but tends to be more of a “throw the rock and hide the hand” operation.  Nonetheless, it’s caught now in its own crossfire that erupted at its national convention when internal conflict became public revolving around Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive, Ackerman, their multi-million dollar public relations, media, and tv contractor based in Oklahoma, and Oliver North, who until a minute ago had been the high profile public figure serving as president of the organization.  LaPierre won this round and forced out North by denying him nomination for a second term after North had demanded that LaPierre resign and offered him a golden parachute to do so.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer group of people.

More interesting is the investigation over the nonprofit tax-exempt status of the NRA in New York State and potentially Texas.  One of the main pillars of the inquiry has to do with what are called “related party transactions.”  The hot sauce underneath this story involves a charge that Wayne LaPierre accepted $275,000 worth of clothing from an NRA vendor over a period of years.  I have to admit my first thought about hanky-panky in the NRA wouldn’t have involved LaPierre’s suits.  This is no Brad Pitt or Adam Driver modeling guy.  Pictures of LaPierre in the paper and on television would have him more in the role of an angry accountant screaming with a mean face at a cashier about a mistake on his restaurant bill.

A related party transaction knocks on the door of something that sounds more ominous which is “self-dealing.”  In business, Wikipedia offers this definition:

“…a related party transaction is a transaction that takes place between two parties who hold a pre-existing connection prior to the transaction. An example is how a dominant shareholder may benefit from making one of their companies trade to the other at advantageous prices.”

Issues that tend to mitigate whether such transactions are problematic tend to revolve around the degree to which any dominance is diluted or exerted for example with common staff or board members.  Nonprofits, such as ACORN were always careful to make sure that a majority of the boards of tax-exempt nonprofits were not the same as ACORN’s leadership, even though there might be representatives of ACORN on the 501c3 board.  The same would be true for shared staff and how any such labor was priced fairly and even making sure that rental arrangements on shared space and cooperative items like xerox machines and phone systems were equitable to all parties.

A central issue is disclosure.  Audits and governmental reports for nonprofits, much like for profit businesses, were careful to disclose related party transactions.  In our annual audits these transactions would sometimes run on for pages.  None of this is either illegal or circumspect.  As details:

There are many types of transactions that can be conducted between related parties, such as sales, asset transfers, leases, lending arrangements, guarantees, allocations of common costs, and the filing of consolidated tax returns.  In general, any related party transaction should be disclosed that would impact the decision making of the users of a company’s financial statements.

The NRA press reports indicate that there is smoke, but it is impossible to tell whether or not there is fire yet.  Did they not disclose related party transactions?  Were the suits an inducement leading to self-dealing or an unfavorable pricing scheme between the vendor and the NRA as the dominant party?  We don’t know.  The NRA says the charges have been internally investigated and found wanting.  New York and its Attorney General Leticia James are going to see if that is in fact the case or not.

Shots are being fired, but we won’t know if they have really hit the NRA near its tax-exempt heart until the smoke clears.