July 14, 2021
(Liberty, AZ, July 8, 2021) An open letter to all NRA Directors, and to be shared with NRA members. Directors: Please do me and the members the courtesy of actually reading this before declaring it lies, sour grapes, or just me grinding my daddy’s 23-year old axe. I make no money off of criticizing NRA leaders. I am seeking no position within the NRA. And while I do hold a personal grudge against Wayne LaPierre for the way he treated my father’s memory at the NRA Meetings in 2005, shortly after Dad died, that has nothing to do with the facts I have reported about the serious corruption at the top of the NRA, and the failure of the NRA Board of Directors to effectively address the issues.
It is always difficult when someone you know, like, and respect looks you in the eye and assures you from the bottom of their heart that they did not do this thing which they’ve been accused of. Throw in a handful of other trusted friends and associates, earnestly telling you that they know for an absolute certainty that their friend and colleague is spotless and blameless, and indeed has personally exposed the problems and worked tirelessly to correct them and make sure they can’t happen again, and it is very difficult for anyone to contradict their position.
That’s where things stand in the NRA Board. Wayne LaPierre has earnestly professed his innocence – or at least declared his accusers to be liars – and you’ve been convincingly reassured by Carolyn Meadows, Charles Cotton, Tom King, Marion Hammer, Scott Bach, Sandy Froman, and others, of LaPierre’s purity, dedication, and importance to the Association. These are people of the highest integrity, who are widely respected by their peers, and who you could never imagine intentionally misleading you – for the most part.
Then on the other side of the matter, you have reporters from Mike Bloomberg’s propaganda machine, along with reporters from various left-wing publications, a hate-filled state attorney general with grand ambitions for higher office, and a few NRA critics like myself, pointing out the billowing smoke coming from Waples Mill Road, detailing the reports of former NRA employees complaining about massive payments made to vendors on the basis of vague invoices, expired contracts, and the appearance of serious conflicts of interest.
We, the critics, whistle-blowers, and reporters, can never have the same sort of credibility as your trusted friends and colleagues, and we cannot unequivocally declare from personal knowledge, that a particular person willfully and knowingly committed a specific act of corruption. All we can do is stack up the evidence and present it to you. Point out the patterns, the timelines, the payments, and the players, and ask you to step back, look at the evidence, set aside your personal feelings, and judge the matter without bias.
But people you trust and respect are telling you unequivocally that it was Wayne LaPierre who uncovered the problems, that it was Wayne who demanded accounting and corrections, that it was Wayne who instituted new measures to make sure the Association is now in line with New York law, and that anyone telling you anything different is either a Bloomberg or Letitia James stooge, an NRA hater, or a disgruntled kid grinding his daddy’s axe.
I recently turned 61 years old, just 8 years younger than my father was when he died, so characterizing me as a kid is a little bit of a stretch. I’ve been a Life Member of the NRA for over 40 years, and I’ve been an active participant in the Association for most of that time. Many of those people who are the most devout defenders of Wayne LaPierre, are people who I deeply respect and have considered personal friends for decades. I almost believe them myself, when they start talking about Wayne’s heroic actions to “right the ship.” But then I remember the evidence. I review the sworn testimony of Wayne himself, during the bankruptcy trial, and his answers to charges in the New York suit. I remember that some of the whistle-blowers were people I knew well, and people who were deeply committed to the NRA and its mission. People who would never do anything to harm the Association or our cause, and who had nothing to gain by making accusations. And I remember that Wayne’s good friend, Woody Phillips, who Wayne brought to NRA back in 1991, and who served as Wayne’s primary wing-man for all those many years, spent over two hours pleading the Fifth, in his deposition for the NRA’s bankruptcy trial.
I have no doubt that Wayne LaPierre, with Bill Brewer’s help, dug through the NRA’s books, cleaning up messes, back-filling invoices and contracts, canceling some contracts and adjusting others, and instituting policies and practices to make sure the Association is on the straight and narrow path, just as LaPierre defenders like Scott Bach have so vehemently claimed.
But I also know for an absolute fact that the problems Wayne was correcting, covering, and condemning, developed under Wayne’s watch, and many of them came about with his active cooperation, guidance, and defense. Wayne was responsible for the problems he claims now to have corrected. Even the issues that Wayne might not have been directly involved in, land at his feet, because he was in charge and it was his job to keep such things from occurring.
How many times over the years did you, as an NRA Director, hear someone raise a question about the millions and millions of dollars being paid to Ackerman McQueen, only to have Wayne jump to their defense and insist that the PR company was a critical element in the NRA’s ongoing strategy?
Ackerman McQueen, working without a detailed contract, with no clear accountability, submitting open-ended invoices for “services rendered,” with no indication of what exactly was being paid for… These are the issues that NRA is currently suing Ackerman McQueen over, and they are the exact same issues raised by the Finance Committee and a majority of the Board of Directors back in 1996. Read the minutes from the Finance Committee meeting of December 1996 (included as part of a very enlightening Federal Elections Committee complaint from 1998), when then NRA President Marion Hammer (who is also prominently featured in the FEC complaint) tried to claim the meeting was illegal, after the Committee unanimously voted “No Confidence” in Wayne LaPierre. Read the report on the management audit from that year (also part of the linked FEC complaint), which detailed many of the exact types of problems that Wayne is now claiming to have “uncovered” and finally fixed in 2019, but which he vociferously defended in 1997.
Ladies and gentlemen, two things can be true at once. Wayne can have worked diligently to correct the NRA’s accounting and contracting problems – AND – Wayne can be culpable and should be held accountable for allowing those problems to develop and grow in the first place.
The NRA can never claim to have cleaned up its act, as long as the man who was in charge when the mess was created, remains in control of the organization. When these matters get to court, the judge is going to be looking to see if the NRA was allowing funds to be improperly spent for personal benefit or for purposes other than the charitable mission of the Association. If he finds that they were, he will look to see if those issues have been corrected and try to ascertain who was responsible and culpable for them. Then he’ll look at the policies, procedures, and the management structure, to ensure that the same types of problems can’t occur in the future, and that those responsible for the problems are no longer in positions of power within the Association.
The fact that the Board of Directors has reelected Wayne LaPierre twice since the problems came to public light – and is poised to reelect him again before this matter gets to trial – will not sit well with the judge. In fact, it points a finger of guilt at the Board for not taking a stricter position, and failing to truly clean house. That puts the Association itself at risk.
Ideally, the judge should be looking to protect the investments and contributions of the NRA’s members, which would make dissolution of the Association a very unlikely outcome, regardless of Letitia James’ demands. But, by failing to demonstrate autonomy, failing to hold the CEO responsible for the corruption he allowed to become embedded in the organization, and allowing him to continue to exert extreme levels of influence over the Board without any repercussions – such as declaring bankruptcy without even mentioning the idea to the Board – the judge could decide that the Association is corrupt to the core and unsalvageable. He could also decide to place the organization into receivership, possibly for years, likely neutering all but the most benign, non-political activities.
I’ve spoken with a number of attorneys and experts in nonprofit law, including a former New York Attorney General, and a specialist who worked in the nonprofit sections of a state AG’s office. Every single one of them has suggested that the strongest defense the NRA can put forward as an organization, is to play the victim card. To say, “If indeed the court finds that there was corruption and malfeasance or misappropriation of funds, then we, the NRA, are the victims, and we should not be punished for being victimized by people we trusted.
Nothing like that has ever been uttered in any of the arguments from the NRA’s attorneys. If that argument were put forward, it would ring pretty hollow as long as Wayne LaPierre is still at the helm.
I’ve heard rumors that several more Directors are now considering resigning, as Duane Liptak, the CEO of Magpul Industries, recently did, frustrated that they are unable to effectively fulfill their fiduciary obligations when management can keep them in the dark about what’s really going on – such as the surprise bankruptcy, and not informing them about insurance problems – and fearing that they will be sued personally.
This latest example, the creation of a legal defense fund for officers and directors, was presented to Directors as supplemental to the Association’s formal Errors and Omissions insurance for Officers and Directors, but during the discussion, no one in leadership bothered to mention that the fund was actually being created to replace the B&O insurance policy, which their insurer had informed them it was not going to renew. If “leadership” can keep such vital information from you – with no repercussions for doing so – how can you possibly believe that you are fulfilling your obligation to look out for the best interests of the members?
To those Directors considering resigning, I make one request: Hold out until after the first Board meeting after the Members’ Meeting in Houston. At that meeting, LaPierre and his chosen will be up for reelection, and there will be an alternate slate of candidates offered to challenge them. If the alternate slate wins, the Association can move forward in a true effort to reform, reorganize, and re-energize, with the Board in control and management working for them. If, on the other hand, LaPierre and company manage to retain power, then I would advise every rational person on the Board to stand up and walk away, right then and there.
The NRA stands on the brink of destruction. Wayne LaPierre could have been remembered as one of the great heroes of the Second Amendment, but that legacy is gone. His name is destined to go down in infamy as the architect of the NRA’s greatest failure, possibly even its death.
The members no longer have the legal authority we had back in 1977, when we stormed the castle, changed the Bylaws, reformed the management, and refocused the organization on defending the Second Amendment. The only power the members have now is to vote for Director candidates, and to let Directors know how we feel about the issues of the day.
You, as a Director, should have received hundreds of letters, calls, and emails from angry and frustrated NRA members demanding that you fix the problems. If you haven’t, then you are way too insulated from the members you are supposed to represent, and you need to get out more.
At the meeting in Houston, the members will again demand that you take corrective action, install new leadership, and start rehabilitating our Association.
This is not some vast left-wing conspiracy, nor is it a few disgruntled or confused members whining about things they don’t understand. You will hear from dedicated, informed NRA members, whom you have sworn to effectively represent, calling on you to live up to your obligations to them and do what is best for the Association. How will you answer them?
We’ll be watching, and we’ll see you in Houston in September.
A lifelong shooter and firearms enthusiast, Jeff Knox is a second-generation writer and rights activist who has been writing about guns and gun rights professionally for almost 20 years. After the untimely death of his father, gun rights legend, Neal Knox, in 2005, Jeff took over as Director of The Firearms Coalition, an information and strategy group of grassroots organizations, gun clubs, and activists, founded by Neal in 1984, which works at all levels to educate, inform, and influence on rights issues. Along with regular articles in various publications, The Firearms Coalition publishes a newsletter called The Hard Corps Report, which is available for subscription only, at FirearmsCoalition.org.
For more information regarding the current state of the NRA, please refer to the following articles: