Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.
April 20, 2019 12:40 PM   Subscribe

The NRA is millions of dollars in debt, but seems to have deeper troubles. Most of their money is spent on high salaries and high living for NRA insiders, much of it funneled through a public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, which kicks back much of the money those same insiders. It's similar to the executive pay scandals at the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Red Cross, but carried to a whole new level. Previously, there were thoughts and prayers for them here.
posted by Bee'sWing (57 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
The right wing grift machine is looting every pot of money and cashiering every institution, so it makes perfect sense that they'd eat their own as well.
posted by M-x shell at 1:06 PM on April 20 [39 favorites]


At the N.R.A.’s annual meetings, he disparages “élites” who “long to turn America into some European-style socialist state.”

I guess LaPierre's banking on people not figuring out that there are European countries in which people can own guns and get free healthcare.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:11 PM on April 20 [37 favorites]


Yup, always be grifting.
posted by Ickster at 1:17 PM on April 20 [7 favorites]


grumpy_cat_good.gif
posted by clawsoon at 1:18 PM on April 20 [8 favorites]


It will be interesting to see what happens when their heavily armed, grievance-collecting base finally figures out that they're being grifted by what they saw as the foundation stones of their culture.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:26 PM on April 20 [6 favorites]


The first thing I thought of as I finished the piece was that it's like the NRA was preyed upon by a private equity firm.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:26 PM on April 20 [15 favorites]


Bill Brewer, a lawyer who represents the N.R.A., said that the organization “has serious concerns about the accuracy of this reporting and The New Yorker’s sources. Of course, we cannot comment on privileged communications or personnel matters.”
That could be read two ways without changing a word, i.e., "We have serious concerns about how you got such accurate reporting and how you got access to these sources."
posted by clawsoon at 1:33 PM on April 20 [20 favorites]


It will be interesting to see what happens when their heavily armed, grievance-collecting base finally figures out that they're being grifted by what they saw as the foundation stones of their culture.

Yeah I wonder what'll happen.
posted by tclark at 1:35 PM on April 20 [61 favorites]


It'll be a real shame if they all lose their jobs. And then fall down a flight of stairs. And then burn in hell forever.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:37 PM on April 20 [35 favorites]


"We have serious concerns about how you got such accurate reporting and how you got access to these sources."

Easy, any employee not getting a six figure salary out of this is going to be happy to squeal.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:38 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


This is wild. And it really bothers me because I have spent most of my career working for non-profits, where everyone is typically so terrified of running afoul of the IRS or major donors that it can make the sector overly risk-averse and leads to a lot of staff burnout. And then you have the NRA, basically acting like the IRS and accounting don't exist.

I once worked for an organization with an operating budget about 40% of the NRA's (at least as far as I can tell, given the NRA's shady bookkeeping - their operating budget appears to be around $500m, and ours was $200m) , and it was a huge issue among the staff that the board decided to operate for one year on a deficit of about a million dollars. Meanwhile, the NRA is operating year after year on a ~$50+m deficit and no one seems to care.

I wonder how much they keep in reserves. When I see a political organization running on such huge deficits, I see a sitting duck that could be easily brought down with a few well-fought lawsuits.

One thing I will say: the stuff about the advancement team and small donors did not ring a ton of alarm bells for me, at least in comparison to the huge klaxons going off for everything else. 1. If they didn't have a big major donor program before, those can take a long time to build, and while you are building them, you WILL spend more than you bring in. 2. It doesn't surprise me that most of their money comes from smaller donations. This is not uncommon for advocacy groups (which is basically what the NRA is these days) and it's actually not a bad strategy if you are a group that takes controversial stands. If you are primarily funded by a few huge donors or foundations (like many nonprofits are), that can really tie your hands in terms of what you can do politically. (Obviously none of this is a justification of anything else in the article or literally anything the NRA does. I'd love to see it die. But I don't think the writer of this piece understands nonprofit fundraising.)
posted by lunasol at 1:44 PM on April 20 [50 favorites]


Meanwhile, the NRA is operating year after year on a ~$50+m deficit and no one seems to care.

Perhaps they have the services of one of those Russian banks whose generosity in extending lines of credit is matched only by their lack of concern about collecting payment.
posted by acb at 2:12 PM on April 20 [19 favorites]


C Quackermen Mean is an anagram for Ackerman McQueen, and somehow it feels revealing.
posted by wildblueyonder at 2:14 PM on April 20 [5 favorites]


I'd like to think they really are in trouble, that they might soon crash and burn, and that it might take at least a few months for the successor grifters to organize a replacement org. But I can't help remembering Oral Roberts' plea for his flock to send him $8M, because otherwise his God was going to call him home. (He managed to milk it for another 22 years before he finally did go.) Is God calling the NRA home?
posted by Weftage at 2:19 PM on April 20 [8 favorites]


Good riddance, I hope.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:29 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]


Thank you for the mention of my previous post!

And I continue to do two things:
1) Refer to them as the National Homicide Association
2) urge people to send thoughts and prayers and not one penny.

I hope people remember that the modern NRA was born in murder, and they opposed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Bastards all.
posted by mephron at 2:35 PM on April 20 [32 favorites]


One of these venders is Wayne Sheets, who retired from the N.R.A. in 2008 but continued to serve as a fund-raising consultant. According to state filings, Sheets’s contract stipulated a “base monthly consulting fee” of thirty thousand dollars, to be paid “regardless of the number of consulting hours provided by Consultant.” Federal tax records show that, in 2017, the N.R.A. paid Sheets seven hundred and ten thousand dollars. The memos note that he received an additional two hundred and forty thousand dollars in “expense reimbursements.” Cummins wrote that Sheets’s case was “just one illustration” of N.R.A. staff “being told to process payments w/o documentation.” His contract was recently extended through 2023.
He retired, but it would be wrong and bad for him not to get money, so now he's a "consultant", for which he is given a bare minimum of $360,000 per year whether he does anything or not. And he will keep on getting that $360k until at least 15 years after he left the org. And if he does do anything, he can pad the crap out of it, because that $30k/month is just for existing.

What the everloving fuck.
posted by current resident at 2:41 PM on April 20 [37 favorites]


This would be a drawing of Wayne LaPierre I may have posted here before(I have drawn so many of these voracious weasels now that it's hard to keep track) that I did a year or so ago.

This is very good journalism by the New Yorker, and should be required reading for every member of the NRA.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 2:49 PM on April 20 [13 favorites]


that $30k/month is just for existing.

And not spilling any beans, which I have no doubt he possesses in large quantity.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:51 PM on April 20 [21 favorites]


"You keep me on the payroll as an outside consultant and in exchange for my salary, my job will be never to tell people these things that I know. I don't even have to come into the office, I can do this job from home."
posted by tclark at 2:54 PM on April 20 [48 favorites]


Let's face it... The NRA could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and it wouldn’t lose supporters.
posted by glonous keming at 3:06 PM on April 20 [19 favorites]


How could anyone have possibly predicted that Oliver North would turn out to be a shady individual?!?!

There were no warning signs at all!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:25 PM on April 20 [19 favorites]


If the NRA really cared about access to guns for law abiding Americans, they would support universal background checks and even European style gun licensing of gun owners. Whatever would most effectively keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. But, they are really just a shill for the GOP. And, apparently, a con game.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:27 PM on April 20 [5 favorites]


But, they are really just a shill for the GOP. And, apparently, a con game.

...But you repeat yourself...
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:34 PM on April 20 [18 favorites]


But I can't help remembering Oral Roberts' plea for his flock to send him $8M, because otherwise his God was going to call him home. (He managed to milk it for another 22 years before he finally did go.) Is God calling the NRA home?

This reminds me of another thing that struck me - nonprofits will, as the author of the piece points out, occasionally use the threat of closure to fundraise, but it's a terrible long-term strategy. Because 1. no one wants to bet on a loser and 2. eventually people are like "haven't you been going under for five years?"

This is one of those things that people who are not professional fundraisers always think should be a good fundraising strategy, but it's really not. And it's telling that essentially a marketing firm developed that strategy. It might work to get your yearly $25 direct mail check from someone who feels like an underdog. But it is not going to work for a multimillionaire whom you want to give you $200,000.
posted by lunasol at 3:35 PM on April 20 [12 favorites]


The right wing grift machine is looting every pot of money and cashiering every institution, so it makes perfect sense that they'd eat their own as well.

Shit, the direct mail marketer Richard Viguerie built the modern conservative fundraising apparatus. The likes of Atwater, Manafort, & Stone helped hone the strategies. Rupert Murdoch built the propaganda arm. I am not at all surprised to learn that everything is grift all the way down.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:42 PM on April 20 [8 favorites]


If the NRA really cared about access to guns for law abiding Americans,

they'd provide funding and legal support to the Black Panthers.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 4:50 PM on April 20 [52 favorites]


On the plus side, it's good to know they will let you pull the firearm out of their cold, dead hand if you spy them holding weed in the other one.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 4:55 PM on April 20 [3 favorites]


Can we skip ahead to the part where they're out of business, their buildings are burned down, and the ground where they stood is sown with salt? Because I am really, really tired of hearing from them about anything.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:12 PM on April 20 [17 favorites]


That'd be a terrible waste of land, fifteen schnitzengruben is thy limit. We could have a nice community garden. Ash turned into the soil is quite nice.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 5:55 PM on April 20 [7 favorites]


FPP is missing the "schadenfreude" tag.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:43 PM on April 20 [6 favorites]


And "crisis actors."

lunasol: ... nonprofits will, as the author of the piece points out, occasionally use the threat of closure to fundraise, but it's a terrible long-term strategy. Because 1. no one wants to bet on a loser and 2. eventually people are like "haven't you been going under for five years?"

But hasn't "the nation is in trouble and we're the only ones who can save it!" been the message of the GOP since circa 1995 with Newt Gingrich's war against the other side, where the NRA has been a partner in the GOP messaging, thanks in large part to a heavy focus on conservative politics that date back another two decades? (Wikipedia links x2)

Reading NRA's history on Wikipedia is extra sad because NRA supported gun regulations up to 1968 (Independent.co.uk):
its leaders testified before Congress during passage of the National Firearms Act: the first major example of federal gun control legislation. The NRA was supportive of the act, and of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which between them created a licensing and tax system for the private ownership of firearms.
And then a racist Texan, Harlon Carter, basically held a coup with other racist ultra-conservatives in 1977 (The Daily Beast) and pretended the first half of the second amendment didn't exist (Politico).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:05 PM on April 20 [11 favorites]


"Revan McQueen?" "Gurney Sloan?" "Colion Noir?" Who's writing this shit?
posted by Iridic at 11:07 PM on April 20 [13 favorites]


been the message of the GOP since circa 1995

The difference is that the only real alternative to the GOP is the Dems. The NRA doesn't have the luxury of scaring donors by suggesting the only possible alternative is, like, the ACLU or something.
posted by axiom at 11:44 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]


Forgive my cynicism, but I’m not ready to celebrate the potential organizational death of the NRA. In spite of its recent-ish radicalization, the NRA is an organization with a legitimate history of education and gun safety training. I would much rather that cooler heads retake control and reorient the group to sanity, than for them to just go out of existence and be replaced by something so grotesque we can’t even imagine it yet.

That new organization would be untethered by any historical legacy or reputation of its name. Radicalism would be its founding principle, emboldened by the “failure” of the NRA.

The NRA is Saddam Hussein. Whatever comes after the NRA is ISIS.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 5:23 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


Reforming the racist (see how often they want to “hear the whole story” when a non-white person is murdered by a cop), sexist (see how they talk about Moms Demand Action), homophobic, transphobic (see their wholesale adoption of the evangelical culture war) NRA to be merely the safety and education organization they were forty years ago isn’t worth our effort. Letting grifters and industry salesmen take over their precious pure education and safety organization wasn’t something their opposition allowed or encouraged.

What’s next isn’t ISIS. The NRA Is already a death cult.
posted by Etrigan at 6:30 AM on April 21 [36 favorites]


Yeah, the NRA doesn't have videos of Ted Nugent beheading liberals yet but it's not far enough beyond imagining. They are already closer to ISIS than the shooting club for good old boys they were 40 years ago.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:02 AM on April 21 [8 favorites]


Yeah, the NRA doesn't have videos of Ted Nugent beheading liberals yet but it's not far enough beyond imagining.

They totally would, if they thought they could get away with it.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:06 AM on April 21 [9 favorites]


I’m reminded of oil companies. The people at the top don’t actually believe the lies they spread; they are just a means to an end of making a fuckton of money. But there’s an added level of sociopathy in that they also don’t care about the externalities of those lies, so long as they get the money. When I look at it that way, this category includes so many oligarchal pieces of shit that it feels very right.

As a society, we need a way to deal with people who profit from clearly foreseeable externalities. These people should be held responsible for what they’ve wrought.

Well, needed, anyway. I feel like if things keep going the way they are, we won’t be wondering about how to deal with bad actors in a civil society anymore.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:58 AM on April 21 [16 favorites]


The NRA is a lobbying organization for gun manufacturers and dealers. If the NRA goes bankrupt, it will likely do nothing to change the politics of gun control legislation because gun manufacturers and dealers will continue to spend lots of money to ply their trade.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:24 AM on April 21 [4 favorites]


As a society, we need a way to deal with people who profit from clearly foreseeable externalities. These people should be held responsible for what they’ve wrought.

The right figured out how to game the first and second amendments. The first amendment allows leeway for saying whatever they feel like, including calling for violence against elected officials, women, and anyone else they feel like targeting. The second amendment takes care of the rest, when it comes down to carrying out that violence.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:01 AM on April 21 [5 favorites]


(“Under Wild Skies” used to appear on mainstream TV, but NBC Sports ended its run after Makris, on camera, shot an elephant in the face.)

It's fun when an entire article is crammed into an aside.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:36 AM on April 21 [14 favorites]


Harry Whittington could tell you it's a GOP tradition.
posted by Bee'sWing at 11:28 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


Incidentally, if folks want a much more detailed takedown of Powell specifically they might be interested in Spies and John Cook's October 2018 piece for The Trace: "A Top NRA Executive’s Trail of Business Flops and Unpaid Debt"
posted by Going To Maine at 11:53 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the NRA doesn't have videos of Ted Nugent beheading liberals yet but it's not far enough beyond imagining

We don't have videos of ISIS shooting people indiscriminately, either. Tomato tomahto. Frankly, I wonder if NRA supporters shoot more people than ISIS beheads.
posted by rhizome at 3:20 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


lunasol: ... nonprofits will, as the author of the piece points out, occasionally use the threat of closure to fundraise, but it's a terrible long-term strategy. Because 1. no one wants to bet on a loser and 2. eventually people are like "haven't you been going under for five years?"

But hasn't "the nation is in trouble and we're the only ones who can save it!" been the message of the GOP since circa 1995 with Newt Gingrich's war against the other side, where the NRA has been a partner in the GOP messaging, thanks in large part to a heavy focus on conservative politics that date back another two decades? (Wikipedia links x2)


Those are two very different things. One is "this problem we're ALL facing is huge and you need us to fight it," which is a very compelling message. The other is "WE as an organization are on the verge of collapse." If we're facing such a huge threat, why would I, random millionaire, give money to an organization that may collapse to fight that threat? I'd rather give my money to an organization that will survive the threat.
posted by lunasol at 9:39 PM on April 21 [2 favorites]


We don't have videos of ISIS shooting people indiscriminately, either.

I assume this is a joke that I'm not getting, because people affiliated with ISIS have shot plenty of people, both discriminately and indiscriminately.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:23 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


More than NRA affiliates waging mass shootings? Does ISIS even kill more people than NRA affiliates? The joke, such as it is, has to do with finding bogey man groups to distract from a greater terror within the US borders.
posted by rhizome at 9:15 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Longtime National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre has told the group’s board he is being extorted and pressured to resign by the organization’s president, Oliver North, over allegations of financial improprieties, in a battle stirring up one of the nation’s most powerful nonprofit political groups. NRA’s Wayne LaPierre Says He Is Being Extorted, Pressured to Resign [WSJ]
The Letter: [PDF]
posted by chavenet at 4:37 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Oliver North is accusing someone of financial improprieties. OLIVER NORTH is accusing someone of FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETIES. Irony is dead.
posted by zabuni at 4:48 AM on April 27 [5 favorites]


You gotta trust the guy with personal experience.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:42 AM on April 27 [3 favorites]


NPR reporter Tim Mak is live-tweeting The NRA's annual meeting. There is drama.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:44 AM on April 27 [1 favorite]


"I've seen some shit, but I've never seen shit like this," one NRA member said, comparing what's happening to having Wayne LaPierre being hung!

Always remember, folks, there's an important difference between a man being hung and a man being hanged.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:58 AM on April 27 [2 favorites]


Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon is also live-tweeting
posted by Going To Maine at 10:04 AM on April 27


Good update from Vox on the state of play.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:49 AM on April 30


tl;dr: Fuck the NRA. Reap the whirlwind you bastards.

It's likely not a popular opinion around these parts, but I really wouldn't mind the NRA in its early-middle 1970's incarnation. Being one of those weird liberal types who is okay with *responsible* gun ownership, having an organization dedicated to making that happen as safely as possible is an idea I can get behind.

In its actual, modern-day incarnation the NRA is an unholy fuckulum of grift, money-laundering, and influence pedaling. That they demonize more than half the population of the USA is just goddamn icing on this shitcake of missed opportunity. I sincerely hope they are bankrupted and their toady GOP compatriots are brought down by the scandal.

As an aside: I never considered being a concealed carry kind of guy until the daily barrage of mass-shootings by, almost always, right-wing dickbags actually got me concerned enough to both secure my permit and an IWB-compatible firearm. I'll gladly turn all of this in if we get reasonable gun control legislation though. Like, yesterday already.
posted by Fezboy! at 12:38 PM on April 30




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