NRA board names North re­place­ment, backs LaPierre

Mead­ows new leader of em­bat­tled gun group

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

The National Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion named Car­olyn D. Mead­ows as its pres­i­dent and cir­cled the wag­ons around em­bat­tled Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent Wayne LaPierre amid un­prece­dented tur­moil at the gun rights or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Ms. Mead­ows re­places Oliver North, who was pushed out amid a strug­gle with Mr. LaPierre stem­ming from the NRA’s fi­nan­cial po­si­tion.

The NRA’s board also voted to re­new Mr. LaPierre as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and CEO, sidelin­ing calls from some mem­bers to oust him.

Keep­ing Mr. LaPierre in place is a vote of con­fi­dence that the NRA can pull out of its fi­nan­cial trou­bles. The or­ga­ni­za­tion bled cash in the run-up to the 2016 elec­tions.

Num­bers re­leased at the group’s national meet­ing in In­di­anapo­lis at the end of April showed that the NRA and sev­eral of its af­fil­i­ates ran an­other $11 mil­lion deficit last year.

“We’ve been less than ac­count­able at the NRA — not as un­ac­count­able as the gov­ern­ment or the me­dia, but we’re bet­ter than that,” le­gendary rocker Ted Nu­gent, an NRA board mem­ber, told The Wash­ing­ton Times on the side­lines of the meet­ing. “I’m just a gui­tar player, but see if I have this right: When I make $5 mil­lion on tour, I can’t spend 6.”

Board mem­bers spent hours be­hind closed doors talk­ing about next steps for the group, and Ms. Mead­ows’ elec­tion was the most vis­i­ble outcome.

She was elected to the NRA board in 2003 and was elected as sec­ond vice pres­i­dent in 2017.

She takes over for Mr. North, who was named pres­i­dent in May 2018 to much fan­fare. He de­liv­ered a fiery speech to an ador­ing au­di­ence at the be­gin­ning of the national meet­ing and then had a proxy read what amounted to his res­ig­na­tion letter the next day.

The dis­cord drew at­ten­tion from Pres­i­dent Trump, who urged the “un­der siege” group to unify.

The pres­i­dent also blasted New York of­fi­cials for try­ing to “take down and de­stroy” the NRA af­ter New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into its fi­nances.

“It must get its act to­gether quickly, stop the in­ter­nal fight­ing, & get back to GREAT­NESS - FAST!” Mr. Trump, who ap­peared at the NRA’s an­nual meet­ings, said in a Twit­ter mes­sage.

Ms. James’ of­fice said in re­sponse to Mr. Trump that she is fo­cused on en­forc­ing the rule of law and would fol­low the facts wher­ever they may lead.

“We wish the pres­i­dent would share our re­spect for the law,” her of­fice said.

In his res­ig­na­tion state­ment, Mr. North said mem­bers ex­pressed con­cerns to him late last year about the amount of money the NRA was pay­ing to the Brewer law firm, which is rep­re­sent­ing the group in an on­go­ing law­suit against New York.

Other NRA mem­bers have de­fended those le­gal fees, say­ing the fu­ture of the or­ga­ni­za­tion could hinge on a suc­cess­ful outcome in the case.

Joel Friedman, a board mem­ber from Ne­vada, said the firm has more than 17 lawyers work­ing the case but added that the spend­ing is in line with where the NRA needs to be.

“Ev­ery­body wants to go, ‘Well, it’s be­cause you’re pay­ing all this money to the law firm,’” he said be­fore not­ing that the NRA had made sig­nif­i­cant spend­ing cuts sev­eral times the size of the lawyers’ fees to Brewer.

The le­gal fees “might be some­where in the neigh­bor­hood of about 15 or 18% of all the money we cut,” he said.

Cut­backs were made in some ar­eas from 2017 to 2018, in­clud­ing a decline of close to $10 mil­lion in ex­penses on safety, ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est fig­ures.

But the group has other ground to make up fi­nan­cially.

Ac­cord­ing to newly pub­lished doc­u­ments, the NRA and a hand­ful of its af­fil­i­ates, in­clud­ing its Po­lit­i­cal Vic­tory Fund and the NRA Foun­da­tion, came close to break­ing even in 2017, re­port­ing $378.1 mil­lion in rev­enue and $379.2 mil­lion in to­tal ex­penses.

But they ran a larger deficit last year, bring­ing in about $412 mil­lion in rev­enue but spend­ing $423 mil­lion.

“My crim­i­nal gov­ern­ment is 20-some tril­lion in debt. Crim­i­nal. I won’t let that hap­pen to the NRA,” Mr. Nu­gent said. “We may be a lit­tle out of con­trol cur­rently, but I think it’s re­me­dial. I think we can find those waste­ful spend­ings, and I think we can end them.”

A per­son fa­mil­iar with the inner work­ings of the group said the NRA was on track with where it ex­pected to be fi­nan­cially for the first quar­ter of 2019.

“Peo­ple have been di­rected to save money ev­ery­where pos­si­ble,” the per­son said. “There’s a hir­ing freeze that un­less a po­si­tion is mis­sion-es­sen­tial, peo­ple are not be­ing hired. And there’s been thor­ough anal­y­sis of spend­ing and belt-tight­en­ing, with no layoffs of the most ded­i­cated peo­ple in the build­ing.”

Still, the NRA last month also sued Ack­er­man McQueen, its long­time ad­ver­tis­ing firm, say­ing it was slow to pro­duce fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments it needed to meet le­gal obli­ga­tions.

The NRA was pay­ing Ack­er­man and its af­fil­i­ates about $40 mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2017, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit, which the firm dis­missed as friv­o­lous and in­ac­cu­rate.

Part of the is­sue, Mr. LaPierre said, was that Mr. North was be­ing paid “mil­lions” by the firm an­nu­ally and mem­bers wanted to know what the NRA was get­ting out of the re­la­tion­ship.

Mr. LaPierre said as the national meet­ing was get­ting started that Mr. North and the firm were try­ing to ex­tort him by threat­en­ing to re­lease dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion un­less he agreed to step aside.



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