AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File
The nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the National Rifle Association has been the target of countless media reports outlining all sorts of allegations. From the outside, it hasn’t looked good for a great many people, including members.
However, let’s not forget who is doing most of this reporting.
The mainstream media isn’t comprised of NRA fans. Quite the opposite. Thanks to biases within the journalism profession, there appears to be a vested interest in taking down the NRA, especially since gun control advocates hold up the organization as some boogieman that must be defeated before gun control can take hold.
As a result, the media reports may well be overstating any issues. Or, they may just be reporting bovine fecal matter and calling it fact.
Either way, the NRA has decided it’s time to respond.
Wednesday night, the group sent out an email titled, “An Important Message From Your NRA Leadership and Past Presidents.”
Dear Fellow NRA Member:
Since the NRA was founded almost 150 years ago, our adversaries have repeatedly tried to take us down. Today is no different. A recent burst of media claims the NRA is vulnerable, financially unstable, and weakened in its fight to defend the Second Amendment. Obviously intent on not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, most reports offer a distorted and inaccurate view of the NRA. As officers and past presidents of the NRA, we write today to set the record straight.
As you may know, we recently convened in Indianapolis for one of the largest NRA conventions in our history. More than 80,000 of our members showed up to gather as one NRA family – to support our Association and celebrate our nation’s constitutional freedoms. During our annual Members Meeting on April 27, some asked for greater insight into three issues: the NRA’s financial affairs, our direction and strategy, and the supervisory role being played by our board of directors. We had an open forum and spirited discussion.
Of course, our discussions were portrayed as a sort of family feud. (Infighting at the NRA – Chaos and Controversy!). At the NRA, we take pride in the fact that our Association is inclusive and invites the active participation of every member. Every member has an opportunity to voice any concern they may have at the Members Meeting. In fact, our greatest privilege is hearing from our members. Like many of you, that’s why we were at the Members Meeting in the first place and spent countless hours on the convention floor.
Fact: During a board of directors meeting on April 29, Wayne LaPierre was elected by acclamation to continue serving as our CEO and Executive Vice President. The board also unanimously elected Carolyn D. Meadows to serve as our new president.
Perhaps looking for a way to counter the narrative about a stronger, more unified NRA, questions have now conveniently surfaced about our financial situation and our standing in the regulatory arena. There also have been frequent attacks on Wayne’s personal character.
Fact: According to the NRA’s chief financial officer, we are on budget in 2019. The NRA is meeting all banking and supplier financial obligations and we continue to aggressively manage our cost structure to offset the orchestrated and calculated attacks against NRA’s finances in 2018. Put another way, our financial house is in order – we aren’t going away.
We have full confidence in the NRA’s accounting practices and commitment to good governance.
Fact: The Association’s financials are audited and its tax filings are verified by one of the most reputable firms in the world. Internally, the Association has a conflict of interest policy and, where appropriate, related-party transactions are reviewed and approved by the board’s Audit Committee.
Simply put, we are well-positioned on the regulatory front and poised to handle all challenges that confront us.
Personal attacks against the NRA’s leaders are nothing new. Recent ones have focused on wardrobe purchases and travel expenses incurred by Wayne. If members hear of an allegation, they can be assured that it has been or will be addressed by the appropriate committees within our board of directors.
Fact: We have committees in place to oversee issues relating to Accounting, Legal Affairs, and Ethics, among others – and every board member is invited to attend these meetings. Please remember that all of us are elected by you – our members. We are not elected by Wayne or anyone on the NRA executive team. We serve as your elected representatives.
Fact: Over the years, Wayne had been advised by the NRA’s advertising professionals to invest in his professional wardrobe due to his numerous public and media appearances. We understand that this was the same agency that facilitated the clothing purchases. What wasn’t as evident in this “disclosure” is that the clothing expenses referenced in media reports dated back to expenses from 15 years ago! To put it in perspective, over this time period, Wayne has participated in thousands of events and hundreds of TV appearances, and personally directed fundraising efforts that total in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In any event, this practice was discontinued some time ago.
Fact: The vast majority of the travel in question involved donor outreach, fundraising, and stakeholder engagement. As an example, The Wall Street Journal reported that a trip to Italy was “tied to a 2015 documentary feature on the Italian gun maker posted on NRATV.” Beretta, as you may know, is a major supporter of the NRA and our Second Amendment.
We are not inclined to further discuss unfounded attacks on our organization, political infighting, or a “weakened” NRA.
However, we will say this: Our adversaries will not divide us and any further discussion about the so-called “demise of the NRA” is only meant to distract us from our mission. This is how it goes when you stand on the bedrock of constitutional freedom – and represent the last line of defense against a campaign to take down the Second Amendment.
While board members may argue, and perhaps even disagree as to tactics, the support Wayne and the current leadership enjoys reflects our assessment of his past and future value to the association as well as our realization that our opponents know they have to take him down if they want to weaken the NRA.
As one NRA member recently said, the true story of the NRA won’t be found in today’s press clippings. It will be written in the history books.
Wayne has been standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all of us for most of his professional life. He has our support. A campaign to oust him failed – as the facts emerged, true motivations became apparent, and we agreed as to who should lead our fight for freedom. We are now moving forward.
Fact: We will confront our opponents, defend our values, and proudly continue our tradition as the greatest civil rights organization in the world.
Just like you, we care about the Second Amendment and our NRA. Just as you do, we know that our fights today are less for us and more for our children and our grandchildren. Just like you, we are all courageous foot soldiers in our fight for freedom. Every single one of us in this fight matters. The Second Amendment is where it is today because of all of OUR efforts. That’s why you matter to our cause and our Association.
We are the NRA. United we stand. And together, we’ll win.
The email was signed by NRA president Carolyn Meadows, first vice president Charles Cotton, second vice president Lt. Col. Willes Lee, and a number of past presidents.
What this shows is that the alleged internal turmoil isn’t nearly as significant as some have claimed or hoped and that there’s at least something of a unified front. That’s not to say there’s no internal disagreement. I’m quite sure there is. You can’t create a group of 5-6 million people and not have disagreements. It’s not possible.
But it does indicate that the disagreements are overstated.
Further, let’s talk a bit about the financial status of the organization that’s been so heavily discussed by the media. The NRA is saying it’s financial house is in order. That’s significant for one fact above any other: If the organization was in financial trouble, this would be a fine time to ask for money. But it’s not.
Leveraging the media attacks to fundraise wouldn’t be prudent for a cash-strapped non-profit, but understandable. The fact no such thing is happening suggests that the NRA’s normal fundraising efforts are sufficient for its needs.
The email seems to provide evidence of the writers’ claims by virtue of existing as it does.
While there are those who disagree with the NRA’s choice of moves in recent months and years, that’s always going to be a factor. The NRA has an approach it prefers. Other groups want something else. There’s nothing wrong with that, in my mind, as there’s no One True Way in much of anything in life. Defending the Second Amendment is no different.
Regardless, the NRA is here to stay.