Most people have lost count of the terrible weeks they experienced so far in 2020, but this first week of August is a landmark for Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association. On Aug. 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit against the NRA and LaPierre to dissolve the organization.
In James’ lawsuit, she alleges that the NRA engaged in fraud and self-dealing over the years that “contributed to the loss of more than $64 million,” while LaPierre and his staffers lived extravagant lives, all bankrolled by people who bought memberships and affixed NRA stickers designed to look like the United States Marine Corps logo on their rear windows.
In the suit, LaPierre is described as having used the NRA to bankroll $500,000 worth of private jet vacations to the Bahamas, where he stayed on a 108-foot yacht owned by one the organization’s vendors described as “equipped with four staterooms, a 16-foot jet boat, and two jet skis,” just like most NRA members’ vacations, right?
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
In addition, the suit claims that the NRA made its largest vendor, Oklahoma City-based advertising agency Ackerman McQueen, pay LaPierre’s travel consultant $4,000 per month over and above her NRA salary to secure $3.6 million in “black car services.”
“From February 2013 to July 2018, Ackerman McQueen (“Ackerman”), the NRA’s
public relations and advertising marketing firm, also paid LaPierre’s travel consultant a $4,000
monthly fee at the direction of LaPierre and [chief financial officer Wilson “Woody”] Phillips, which was in addition to the monthly fees the NRA paid to her directly,” the suit reads. “Ackerman passed these expenses on to the NRA. Upon information and belief, LaPierre was repeatedly told that his travel consultant charged excessive fees for the services she provided and for the vendors she engaged on behalf of the NRA.”
Furthermore, Vendors paid family members of NRA executives comfy salaries for what were likely no-show jobs. As Johnny Rotten said in San Francisco on the last night of the Sex Pistols’ 1977-78 tour, “Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?”
The NRA split acrimoniously from Ackerman last year when the organization sued AM for overcharging and straying from the NRA’s core messaging in its now-defunct NRATV programming. This was a streaming platform that bundled grievance politics with gun nuttery. Hosts Dana Loesch and Grant Stinchfield would foment hate among their viewers, tying Second Amendment loss anxieties to issues of gender identity and the rights of non-white citizens, warning of a coming “race war.”
That reactionary culture allegedly coursed through AM itself. I have lost count of the former AM employees who have described to me an environment of recrimination, where the worst 10 years of their lives were the three years they worked there. They told stories of not leaving the Valliance Bank Tower for days on end, essentially chained to their desks. They talked about employees assigned to the NRA account coming to work in desert camouflage and Oakley sunglasses, cosplaying as soldiers of fortune when they were account executives or graphic designers.
The NRA has been in existence for nearly 150 years, and for most of that time it was a perfectly reasonable organization that supported gun safety and license requirements. After employing AM, the NRA became an all-too-powerful opponent of any gun regulation whatsoever, establishing a stranglehold over state legislators, Congressmembers and Senators vying for campaign contributions and “A” ratings, as well as contributing to our current crisis of gun violence. Not surprisingly, the NRA spent $30 million to elect President Donald Trump in 2016.
At this point, everyone should be angry with the NRA — not only the students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and not only the family members of the 36,000 people killed by guns each year in the U.S.
Rank-and-file members of the NRA should be supremely furious at the organization for taking their annual fees to keep LaPierre and his cohort in a gold-plated lifestyle. In exchange, they received a severely damaged body politic, a social discourse that was shredded in the cause of division and a country that never feels as safe as it should.
Also, they got a sticker.
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