Dear Commons Community,
Last month the National Rifle Association showed that there was a deep rift within its leadership between former NRA President Oliver North and CEO Wayne LaPierre. A series of documents posted anonymously online over the weekend and verified by both The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal show the inner machinations of a group plagued by deep financial troubles to the tune of $24 million.
In a letter North and NRA official Richard Childress sent to top NRA officials last month, North said he was “deeply concerned about the extraordinary legal fees the NRA has incurred” from attorney Bill Brewer.
“The amount appears to be approximately $24 million over a 13-month period,” the nine-page letter said the gun group was burning nearly $100,000 every day, “seven days a week, every day of every month,” on paying the attorney’s law firm.
“The Brewer invoices are draining NRA cash at a mindboggling speed,” the letter said.
LaPierre, meanwhile, billed the group’s ad agency Ackerman McQueen for more than half a million dollars over the years, letters show. His purchases included a $39,000 shopping spree at a Beverly Hills store.
The other letter asked Mr. LaPierre for detailed records backing up $267,460.53 of travel and rent expenses that Mr. LaPierre billed to Ackerman, which said it in turn billed to the NRA.
They included a trip to Italy and Budapest in 2014, where the listed expenses included $6,500 for lodging at the Four Seasons hotel; $2,400 for a stay at the luxury Castadiva Resort on Italy’s Lake Como; $17,550 for “Air Charter” between Budapest and the Italian city of Brescia; and nearly $18,300 for a car and driver in both countries.
There was also a charge of $1,096 for “Frankfurt Airport Assistance.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, new NRA President Carolyn Meadows downplayed the money issues, and said it was a “pathetic” that someone would resort to leaking the documents.
“This is stale news — being recycled by those with personal agendas,” she said in a statement given to the publication. “In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members. It is troubling and a bit pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas. This has no bearing on the board’s support of Wayne — and the work the NRA does to protect America’s constitutional freedoms.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brewer’s firm may continue to drain the gun group of money as he represents it in its current federal litigation against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials, as well as a separate investigation by New York’s attorney general.
And it may have more coming its way: Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the NRA’s tax-exempt status following a report from The Trace that showed the organization’s shady business deals.
There is no group more deserving of fiscal disaster than the NRA but I cannot foresee big conservative funders allowing its demise.