October 29, 2020
By Ned Scott
The NRA has been inundated with controversy after controversy over the past two years. So, it’s become hard to believe as to how many of these accusations have any merit. It’s easy for some to create false narratives in order add weight to the argument that things are really that bad. Sadly, over time almost all of the allegations concerning the NRA have had at least some factual basis. When a new one comes up there is good reason to pay attention, it's no doubt that many are wondering how truly corrupt the NRA has been over these past several years if not decades.
Recently, a podcast series called Gangster Capitalism released an episode calling out NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (WLP) with the claim that the organization has been using its own funds in order to sway the elections of its own board members. This would truly be scandalous if serious independent corroboration can be produced. The timing of the podcast is most poignant because of recent developments regarding the 2020 NRA Board of Directors election. This year’s election results were only announced on July 10th after a long delay. This delay, although initially explained on April 1, was not consistently updated and has led some to believe the NRA to be acting suspiciously.
The central story in the Gangster Capitalism podcast revolves around the Members Council of California and its leader H. (Paul) Payne. Not only does Payne have considerable influence in the organization he also has the title of Liaison to the Executive Vice President for the National Rifle Association. This title would imply that he is one of WLP immediate lieutenants and has a significant amount of access directly to him. For his assistance Paul Payne receives a salary of $80,000 (another $36,000 for expenses) and $60,000 for a full time assistant. He has been at his position at the NRA since 1997. Coincidently the year of the so-called coup by Neal Knox (as WLP would frame it) which it has been suggested that Payne helped block. Also because of his unusual title his salary and other benefits are not individually cited in the NRA tax records. Even though his implied expenses are on par with Secretary Frazer or Treasurer Philips who are listed.
The Members Council of California is accused of organizing its membership to vote in a monolithic block for specific (pro-WLP) candidates. They are also told to only vote for those candidates. This is very influential considering the poor voter turnout by the NRA membership. Then when it comes to the one-year term member position at the Annual Members Meeting something else is done. Paul Payne brings some of his group's members to lobby on the floor for a specific pro-WLP candidate. This is allegedly done with all expenses being covered by the NRA. Was this system used to keep out possible reformers like Adam Kraut? This may provide a long list of reasons why the NRA will not allow an independent audit of its books.
All of this comes from Dezarae Payne, the now separated wife of Paul Payne. So, she would have a lot of direct knowledge of what his interactions would be with WLP. For which many of those interactions she was present to witness. She accounted in specific details about the activities of this Members group at the Annual Meeting. In the name of full disclosure there is a ugly split going on between the two. She has filed a restraining order against him, which included accounts of verbal and physical abuse. The application is available through public records. Yet that may help lend creditably to her statements. If Payne's job for WLP is to be a type of enforcer and to make their own rules he is likely to have other bad behaviors.
This by itself would not seem to have a lot of weight considering the source of the information but there is an interesting thread from another separate source. Starting in 2017, there have been multiple accusations that Josh Powell, Executive Director of Operations, was sexually harassing member of the organizations staff. These accusations were settled by the organization using its own funds, and by default, funds from the NRA membership. The heat from all of these stories along with other issues forced Powell to go “on leave” and for the NRA to find another to fill the position. Its not know whether he left voluntarily or was forced out. Is anyone seeing a pattern here with people who are close to WLP?
If that’s not enough for you then here is another completely unrelated example. The NRA does have some history in conducting business with unscrupulous characters. So here comes the case of Raymon White, a Georgia Lobbyist who has worked with the NRA for over a decade. White has operated a lobbying firm for years in Atlanta, Georgia for years under Raymon White & Associates in 2005 to Commonwealth Enterprises, LLC to Commonwealth Group Partners, LLC. White has given testimony to the state legislature on behalf of the NRA. White's business with them is large enough that the NRA has to disclose it on their federal taxes.
Although just as important White has been involved in two very interesting situations, one was even a scandal. The first one, the more scandalous is that White was implicated in assisting the hiding and advancement of an affair being conducted by Glenn Richardson, the Georgia Speaker of the House at the time, and another female lobbyist. While concerning from a morale standpoint its not as important as the 2010 fight between him and the Georgia State Ethics Committee. The latter suspected White of violating the state's Ethics in Government Act for not disclosing the actual source financing various lobbying expenses. The issue was dismissed after it was determined that the law did not have the necessary statutory enforcement. All this information is available on State of Georgia's website.
They are completely separate issues, but it does show a pattern of WLP having a history of working with people with of questionable moral character. It doesn't take much of a mental leap that if they bend or breaks rules in one area they won't in others. It’s quite possible that WLP has used Paul Payne to exert undue influence on the NRA elections. As a man who has been in power for three decades and already fought off one coup he would make sure it wouldn't happen again. The only real way to confirm this is to look at the detailed expense accounts for the NRA. Which is only being done at the moment by the NY State Attorney General in her lawsuit against the NRA. A lawsuit that names both LaPierre and Powell has key actors in the financial malfeasance of the organization.
Yet with this year's election results it will again seem unlikely that any NRA reformists will have a chance to find the truth. This is another reason why it really matters to vote if you are able. Its solely because most of the NRA voting membership has just taken it on blind faith that their representatives have their interesting in mind that causes issues like this to arise. So, is it too late to fix the problem?