Are you an NRA supporter
On September 22nd, 2015, Wayne LaPierre must have had a very urgent need for new clothes. The mighty boss of the even more powerful US gun lobby organization National Rifle Association (NRA) likes to go to the men's fashion store Ermenegildo Zegna on Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills, right next to the Prada store, for moments like this. The currently cheapest suit, jacket and pants are available here for $ 1,400. The most expensive model costs $ 5450. That September day, LaPierre left $ 39,000 in the store.
In itself, it is a private matter for rich Americans to be dressed for the winter in sinfully expensive fashion boutiques. With an annual income of $ 1.4 million, LaPierre should be able to afford such luxuries.
But in that case things are more complicated. And along with a whole host of other inconsistencies, it has plunged the NRA into its deepest crisis in decades. It goes like recent research by the New York Times, of Wall Street Journal and various other media show personal enrichment, tax offenses, unjustified cash flows - and of course power and influence. The NRA, which it claims to be the "oldest civil rights movement in the USA", is on a lurching course with an uncertain future.
Let's stay a little longer with LaPierre, the strong man of the NRA. He's been the boss since 1991. It determines in which direction the NRA goes, which politicians it supports, which politicians the NRA declares to be its enemies. He is the incarnate defense of the constitutional right to own guns in the United States. Without his support, Donald Trump might not have become president.
Obviously, greed also got away with LaPierre. He didn't pay for his new wardrobe himself. He has billed the expenses of the marketing agency Ackermann McQueen, according to leaked documents. And not just once. At the end of April, Ackermann McQueen's chief financial officer, William Winkler, sent the NRA boss a letter listing all purchases made between 2004 and 2017 that LaPierre had been reimbursed for. The total is $ 274,695.03. Winkler wrote the letter because after looking through the books it was noticed that LaPierre had unfortunately not included any invoices.
The spicy thing is: Ackermann McQueen has been working for the NRA since the 1980s. Observers say the company helped turn a snoring gun enthusiast's club into the most powerful gun lobby in the United States, with around five million members today. Ackermann McQueen is also responsible for the NRA's own online channel NRATV.
Ackermann McQueen receives a good 40 million dollars annually from the NRA for his services. And LaPierre seemed to want to secure a little of that much money for himself.
Ackermann McQueen also gave LaPierre an American Express credit card. He used it to pay for a trip to the Bahamas: $ 94,000. Or Nevada for $ 112,000. Both in 2013. LaPierre even billed the rental costs of an intern using the card. Three months for $ 13,800. Ackermann McQueen's chief financial officer shows another cost breakdown for LaPierre. That total bill is $ 267,000.
William Brewer, an attorney for the NRA, defends in the New York Times the conduct: There was "no indication that Mr LaPierre's expenses were in any way inappropriate". Cloakroom and travel were not billed directly to the NRA for reasons of secrecy and security alone. This practice has also since ended, says Brewer.
Brewer and his law firm have come under criticism himself: NRA ex-President Oliver North, who had a falling out with LaPierre, complained in a letter on April 18 about Brewer's unusually high bills - at that time still in office. In 13 months, $ 24 million had been transferred to the firm, a good $ 100,000 a day. "The money is flowing out of the NRA at an insane rate," writes North. Spending this amount posed a threat to the financial stability of the NRA, he said. Without mentioning his own questionable role in connection with Ackermann McQueen. But more on that later.
There are others who have had their voluntary work for the NRA gilded. An NRA-owned listing shows how much money was paid to some board members for dubious achievements. For example, NRA board member Marion Hammer has received $ 270,000 from the NRA for alleged advisory work. $ 100,000 went to NRA chairman David Butt in his capacity as an "independent contractor".
On top of that. The NRA has hosted a "World Shooting Championship" for several years. And always in the same place, the "Peacemaker National Training Center" in Glengary, West Virginia. The center received 70,500 dollars for the alignment. The owner of the shooting range is Cole McCulloch. And he happens to be the head of the NRA shooting department.
Unsuccessful coup attempt
All of this already casts a devastating light on the NRA. And much of it has led to the power struggle that is currently raging in the NRA. The then NRA President Oliver North, an ex-Marine and something of a military institution for political rights in the United States, tried to overthrow LaPierre at the NRA General Assembly in Indianapolis at the end of April. The post of NRA president is only a representative honorary position and has no special power. LaPierre was able to bring enough supporters on the 76-strong NRA board, the attempted coup failed.
North did not appear at the meeting again. And had a letter read out in which he announced that he did not want to run again after a good six months in office.
In doing so, he must have anticipated his forced resignation. Because North may also have enriched itself. He signed a contract with Ackermann McQueen which, according to LaPierre, brought him "several million dollars a year". In return, he was supposed to host the NRATV show "Oliver North's American Heros". He did that too. The series started in November 2018. So far there are only four episodes.
The LaPierre confidante Carolyn Meadows was elected to succeed North. She then stated that everything was fine. The board of directors was informed about the situation at all times.
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