The past few days, we’ve been taking a whack at some of the most frequently asked questions from readers. We began with “Koba’s” op-ed in the Friday April 9 Outdoor Wire explaining supply-and-demand and its impact on ammunition supplies and prices. Yesterday, we continued with Michael Bane’s recounting of the experience gained in the unsuccessful fight against Universal Background Checks in Colorado.
We’ve allowed some of the clearest voices in the industry to speak (although one had to do it anonymously).
Today, we’re taking a whack at the story we’ve been accused of dodging for the past several months…the NRA and its internal, but now very public, management.
Until the testimony officially began last week in the Texas bankruptcy hearings, all the hubbub has been the equivalent “he said/she said” comments in a particularly nasty divorce.
We’ve read thousands of pages of depositions. They’ve contained things that made us wonder how the Board of Directors could ever permit any of this to happen. But all that information has come during the “fact-finding” phase, either via questioning by the NRA’s attorneys, or the opposing attorneys fighting the Texas bankruptcy or building the New York State case for dissolving the NRA.
Last week, it turned from “trial by media” to swearing under oath.
In open court.
Before a judge.
Now it’s real.
To this point, testimony has made it embarrassingly obvious to anyone not completely brainwashed by a “fake news” narrative that, whatever the outcome of the trial, the NRA is - and has been for years - a managerial train wreck.
That, however, is not saying the NRA is bad.
Far from it.
Today, despite slashed wages and reduced benefits, professionals at the NRA continue to turn out professional-quality work. They are no more guilty of wrongdoing than the millions of members.
Both continue to believe in the NRA and its mission.
The NRA challenges of today have been building for a very long time.
Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of Wayne Lapierre’s infamous “jack-booted thugs” fundraising letter. The letter that caused outside the NRA and inside the NRA’s Board of Directors. One former director says it forced the board to take a hard look at the way things were running under LaPierre’s leadership. After what one former board member described as the “Board’s recognition that new EVP Wayne LaPierre was a management catastrophe” an
Operations Audit was ordered.
Following that audit, his affidavit continues, an attempt was made by members of the Board of Directors to replace LaPierre and “fire Ackerman McQueen to which he was beholden.”
It failed. By three votes. Credit for the defeat has been attributed to Charlton Heston’s ascendancy to the president’s slot and his loyalty to LaPierre (and Ackerman McQueen).
Until the Indianapolis Annual Meeting two years ago no one on the Board of Directors openly crossed him.
The attempted “coup” in Indianapolis failed, but it dumped bunches of the NRA’s dirty laundry in the town square.
Today, based solely on sworn testimony, it is virtually inarguable that the NRA’s elected Board of Directors, the direct representatives of the members, has known - for years- that things were badly out of kilter.
Dissident board members couldn’t reverse the process as majority continued to rubber stamp spending of membership dues on everything from cigar club memberships to private jets to Caribbean hideaways.
Along the way, several board members appear to have drunk- both heavily and repeatedly - from the fountain of LaPierre largesse.
Today, they’re abnormally quiet because they’re afraid. They are seeing that the bill for having partaken in those benefits could be far higher than ever anticipated.
They’re considering the legal consequences for having breached fiduciary responsibilities.
Not for a year, or two, for decades.
They not only ignored abuses they should have addressed, they punished fellow board members who dared suggest changes. They assured the NRA’s members everything was fine, and attacked everyone suggesting otherwise.
If you wonder why, do what any business reporter does: follow the money.
Several of them protected the status quo because they were bellied up to the trough of cash being doled out by Mr. LaPierre. Today, the potential cost of haven partaken in that largesse is becoming real.
Each Board member faces being called to account - individually - for their collective failure to exercise reasonable controls over an increasingly unreasonable situation.
Simply stated, the NRA has operated exactly the opposite of the way non-profits are supposed to run. Executives are supposed to carry out the directives of the Board.
At the NRA, orders appear to have been dictated from the executives to the board.
The Texas bankruptcy itself makes that hard to argue.
Board members have said on the record they had no idea it was even happening until after the fact. “After the fact” is when the board convened to formally approve the bankruptcy.
When enough members realize how huge amounts of their dues were been spent financing lifestyles and lawyers, not firearms training and advocacy, some of them might consider their own legal actions.
If there are lawsuits, they will operate under a well-established legal axiom: find the deepest pockets, then empty them.
Meanwhile, the clock continues to run on the NRA’s very expensive legal counsel. They will simply walk away with their millions when/if the NRA’s bank accounts are drained. All that money was paid by members, but with entirely different purposes in mind.
As a Wall Street executive reminded me yesterday, “the only people who make money from situations like this are lawyers and lobbyists.”
Immediately after the infamous Indianapolis Annual Meetings, I wrote “if the NRA doesn’t clean up its own house, the Attorney General of the State of New York will certainly do it for them. No one will like the outcome.”
At this point, the outcome is still in question, but it isn’t a good look for anyone involved.
Meanwhile, as the NRA’s leaders and lawyers are busy before a Texas bankruptcy judge, a historically anti-gun president has rolled out his initial assault on gun rights.
One of those original steps includes the nomination of David Chipman to head the ATF. One of the very “jack-booted thugs” Mr. LaPierre predicted would be given “more power to take away your Constitutional rights” back in 1996.
Last week, British publication, the Daily Mail published a story on Mr. Chipman’s career, including a photo of his posing in camouflage and carrying a rifle amid the aftermath of the infamous Waco standoff in which 76 Branch Davidians and five ATF agents died.
Since then, they point out, he’s worked as an advisor for anti-gun groups. During that time, he’s gone on record as saying one reason the ATF’s not been a successful enforcement agency is “they’ve never been given the tools to do the job.” To him, Waco appears to have been a successful operation.
In normal circumstances, everyone on the pro-gun side of the ledger would be looking to the National Rifle Association and its leadership to lead what will be a tough political fight to oppose Chipman and the other “initial” Biden proposals.
Unfortunately, the NRA management’s attention - and membership resources - are otherwise occupied.
We’d need to prepared to go enter the arena without our most effective fighter.
— Jim Shepherd