NRA in Disarray
April 8, 2021

National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre acknowledged in court Wednesday that he did not inform most of the NRA's board before he pushed the gun organization into bankruptcy protection in January. LaPierre also conceded he should have disclosed his several free trips on a 108-foot luxury yacht owned by David McKenzie, a Hollywood producer closely tied to four vendors the NRA paid $100 million in recent years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The NRA is facing off in bankruptcy court against New York Attorney General Letitia James and the gun group's largest creditor, estranged longtime advertising firm Ackerman McQueen. James filed a broad lawsuit against the NRA last summer, seeking its dissolution over alleged self-dealing by LaPierre and other top NRA executives, plus other financial malfeasance. New York and Ackerman McQueen are trying to block the NRA's Chapter 11 filing.

The New York attorney general and the NRA both basically seem to agree that the NRA is financially solvent, and that it has filed for bankruptcy — pausing the New York lawsuit and other litigation — to avoid scrutiny from New York authorities. Whether the NRA can cloak itself in bankruptcy protection and reincorporate in Texas from New York, where it chartered as a nonprofit in 1871, will be up to Judge Harlin Hale in Dallas. Hale on Wednesday called this "the most important motion I've ever heard as a judge."

LaPierre said in a deposition filed over the weekend that he and his family took refuge in the Bahamas, on McKenzie's yacht and at a resort the producer paid for, several times between 2013 and 2018 due to threats he received after mass shootings in Parlkand, Florida, and Newtown, Connecticut. The yacht, Illusions, "was offered as a security retreat where we could be safe and feel safe," LaPierre said. "This was the one place that I hope could feel safe, where I remember getting there going, 'Thank God I'm safe, nobody can get me here.'"

Under questioning, LaPierre said he neither paid to use the yacht nor reported it on financial disclosure forms, as required. He also conceded that his security director did not assess the security of the yacht or do background checks on its cook and other staff. LaPierre also cited security concerns when trying to have Ackerman McQueen buy him a $6 million mansion in a gated Dallas suburb in 2018 and when he treated his house for mosquitoes, The Washington Post reports. Peter Weber

November 18, 2020

The National Rifle Association has agreed to settle charges filed in New York connected to its insurance business.

The gun rights organization was accused of selling insurance to members without a license and regularly keeping premiums for itself without telling customers, Reuters reports. On Wednesday, New York's Department of Financial Services announced the NRA will suspend its insurance business in the state for five years and pay a $2.5 million fine.

State Insurance Superintendent Linda Lacewell said insurance broker Lockton Cos. promoted an NRA-branded program called Carry Guard, which illegally claimed to cover criminal defense costs and the "intentional" use of firearms in shootings, Reuters reports. The NRA also said it offered coverage at "the lowest possible cost," but kept between 13.7 percent and 21.9 percent of premiums paid.

The NRA, which in agreeing to settle did not admit any wrongdoing, said it did not underwrite its insurance programs and had the products marketed by industry experts. "The DFS inquiry, which began with a roar, ends with a whimper," William Brewer, a lawyer for the NRA, said in a statement.

In August, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) sued to dissolve the NRA, accusing the organization of widespread corruption. The insurance settlement does not affect other pending litigation between the NRA and New York state. Catherine Garcia

May 4, 2020

Already struggling due to expensive legal battles, the National Rifle Association is scraping by amid the coronavirus pandemic, with dozens of employees laid off or furloughed and senior staffers taking 20 percent pay cuts.

The organization canceled its national convention and several fundraisers and other events that bring money into the group. In a memo to employees, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said the staffing changes will be temporary. "Defending freedom has never been easy," he wrote in the email, obtained by The Associated Press. "Over the years, we've weathered more tough times than most. But we will rise from this stronger and well positioned to lead the fight to protect our Second Amendment, the First Amendment, and all our constitutional freedoms during the crucial upcoming elections and for years to come."

The NRA's legal fights include investigations from state attorneys general into organization's finances and a contentious split with its longtime marketing firm. Last month, NPR obtained audio of an NRA board meeting held in January, during which LaPierre said "the cost that we bore" from legal issues in 2018 and 2019 "was probably about a $100 million hit in lost revenue and real cost. I mean, that's huge." The organization had to cut $80 million in costs, bringing it "down to the studs," LaPierre added.

The NRA's most recent tax fillings show LaPierre earned about $2 million in compensation, but the group would not share with AP how much his pay has been cut. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2020

The National Rifle Association, like most organizations, has probably been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was in pretty bad financial shape before that, according to audio of CEO Wayne LaPierre obtained by NPR News. At a Jan. 11 NRA board meeting in Virginia, LaPierre said "the cost that we bore" from legal troubles in 2018 and 2019 "was probably about a $100 million hit in lost revenue and real cost," adding, "I mean, that's huge." In response, the NRA cut $80 million in costs and took the organization "down to the studs," he said.

The NRA laid off staff and announced pay cuts in March, blaming the coronavirus.

LaPierre did not say how much of the $100 million hit came from investigations into the NRA's finances by the attorneys general of New York and Washington, D.C., and how much was a result of a messy divorce with its former longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. But in an April 15 legal filing, NPR's Tim Mak notes, Ackerman McQueen said it believes the NRA paid outside lawyers "more $54 million" over the last two years. LaPierre seemed to blame New York and D.C., calling the investigations of misspending and self-dealing "the power of weaponized government" like you might find in Russia, Cuba, or Venezuela.

The NRA and its affiliates reported more than $412 million in earnings and more than $423 million in expenditures in 2018, with tens of thousands going to foreign fundraising efforts after multiple years of financial shortfalls. Internal tensions over LaPierre's lavish spending and alleged chicanery spilled into the open at the NRA's April 2019 meeting, where the group's president, Oliver North, quit and an attempt to oust LaPierre failed. LaPierre said at the Jan. 11 meeting that NRA membership remains strong at "right around 5 million." You can listen to his comments at NPR and Mak's report below. Peter Weber

August 13, 2019

When it emerged last week that the National Rifle Association and its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, had moved to buy NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and his wife, Susan, a $6 million mansion in suburban Dallas last year, the NRA insisted that "not a cent of NRA money was ultimately spent" on the abortive real estate purchase.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it obtained a copy of a $70,000 check the NRA sent in May 2018 to WBB Investments LLC, a Delaware entity created a week previously. The money was intended as earnest money toward an offer on the 10,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, nine-bath French country–style estate in a gated golf club community, a person familiar with the transaction told the Journal. New York's attorney general is investigating the proposed purchase as part of a larger review of the NRA's nonprofit status.

"The NRA made a nominal payment to help facilitate the process for a real estate transaction that was supposedly being undertaken by Ackerman McQueen following the Parkland tragedy," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Journal. The check was reportedly returned after the deal fell apart. Ackerman McQueen said it's "patently false" that anyone other than LaPierre was driving the transaction.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that LaPierre wanted the NRA to buy him the property because "he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live" after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. LaPierre requested that WWB Investments be created to facilitate the purchase, the Post reported, and the LaPierres "were intensely involved in the selection of the property." Emails described to the Post show that Susan LaPierre was concerned there wasn't enough closet space in the men's master bedroom and bathroom.

ProPublica and The Trace published documents last week showing that NRA accountants reviewing the books flagged the $70,000 payment as a top concern and violation of the organization's "accounts payable procedures." Nonprofit lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley told the Journal that "if there's a check from the NRA to an LLC, that doesn't seem consistent with a story that Ackerman was going to pay for it." Peter Weber

August 7, 2019

The National Rifle Association planned to buy a roughly $6 million mansion in the Dallas area last year for use by CEO Wayne LaPierre, with help from the NRA's former longtime advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, multiple people tell The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The NRA and Ackerman McQueen, locked in a bitter legal fight, don't dispute that discussions took place to buy the mansion, but in competing statements Tuesday night, they offered sharply different accounts of who originated the idea, its purpose, and why the deal fell apart.

Ackerman McQueen said LaPierre asked the firm for help buying the mansion, it refused, and "actions in this regard led to Ackerman McQueen's loss of faith in Mr. LaPierre's decision-making." An attorney for the NRA, William Brewer III — brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen — said the ad firm broached the purchase as a real estate investment, and it "was vetoed by the NRA after its full terms — including Ackerman's intent to spend NRA money — became known to Wayne LaPierre." Ackerman McQueen responded that the assertion it drove the mansion deal is "patently false" and "the truth is that Mr. LaPierre decided to proactively propose his plan to leave his current residence and purchase a new residence," he "sought the involvement of Ackerman McQueen," and "Ackerman McQueen refused to proceed with this transaction."

The records about the failed deal are being scrutinized by the New York's attorney general's office as part of its review of the NRA's tax-exempt status.

The NRA paid LaPierre $1.44 million last year, and leaked documents show that the NRA, via Ackerman McQueen, paid $542,000 million for private jet trips for LaPierre, designer suits, and rent for a summer intern's apartments. Also, at least 18 of the NRA's 72 board members reportedly received money from the group over the past three years, a period of time in which the NRA posted losses, cut programs, and froze employee benefits. Peter Weber

June 26, 2019

The National Rifle Association has officially severed ties with its estranged longtime advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, and shut down production at NRATV, its live broadcast media arm, The New York Times reports. It is not a friendly divorce.

The NRA told Ackerman CEO Revan McQueen in a note Tuesday night that it "regrets that a longstanding, formerly productive relationship comes to an end in this fashion," the Times reports. Ackerman responded that it's "not surprised that the NRA is unwilling to honor its agreement to end our contract and our long-standing relationship in an orderly and amicable manner," and it "will continue to fight against the NRA's repeated violations of its agreement with our company with every legal remedy available to us."

The NRA and Ackerman have been sparring since last summer, when the NRA started an audit of its outside contractors, and it broke into the open in April, when NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre accused the organization's president, Oliver North, of trying to extort him into resigning with the threat of releasing "a devastating account of our financial status." Oliver stepped down in April, and last week the NRA placed its chief lobbyist Christopher Cox, on administrative leave, accusing him of conspiring with North and Ackerman to oust LaPierre. Cox, the NRA's second-highest officer, was widely seen as a likely successor to LaPierre.

Ackerman produced NRATV, and the NRA did not prohibit the broadcast of previous content but is on-air personalities, notably Dana Loesch, will no longer serve as a public face of the organization. "Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment," LaPierre wrote in a message to members, the Times reports. "We are no longer airing 'live TV' programming." Peter Weber

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