Published in the Delaware County Daily Times Sunday, December 8, 2019
By Joseph Batory
The National Rifle Association (NRA) promotes its self- image as “patriotic and principled” and standing up for the rights of “the common man.” But the NRA is more accurately “a money machine” which has become the subject of numerous corruption investigations in 2019. Top officials have been ousted, Board members have resigned, and lawsuits between the NRA and its longtime marketing firm have been raging.
Just a few months ago, Oliver North, once famous as a key figure in the Iran Contra scandal, was forced out his position as NRA president after he raised questions about the financial actions of this supposedly tax-exempt organization.
Now estranged from the NRA, the Ackerman McQueen PR firm is the author of the NRA’s marketing success for unchecked gun ownership. Its relentless propaganda strategy has promoted racist fear among the public re potential race wars, the collapse of democracy, and a threatening federal government. Its utilization of Hollywood actor Charlton Heston as the face of the NRA was extremely effective.
The NRA payments to the Ackerman firm have been disclosed as totaling over $20 million annually. And a more recent revelation revealed the 2017 NRA payment at more than $40 million that year. How Ackerman McQueen has spent all that money has become the source of its major feud with the NRA.
Amidst this legal battling, the NRA has now shut down its online channel NRATV creation which has often strayed beyond gun control issues to present blatantly political positions on other topics.
So, forget the “common man” fantasy. The NRA has been and continues to be about “big bucks.” Start with Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO whose salary is reported to be in excess of one million dollars.
The Wall Street Journal has revealed correspondence from Ackerman’s chief financial officer to LaPierre, citing excessive expenses billed by LaPierre, including thousands of dollars of personal charges at a Beverly Hills men’s store and other large expenditures for luxury travel to locations such as Italy, Budapest and the Bahamas. And there have been multiple news reports of the NRA seeking to purchase a Texas mansion worth millions of dollars for LaPierre.
The New Yorker, has exposed a wide array of NRA business arrangements that have steered millions of dollars to NRA executives, contractors, and favored vendors.
And then there are allegations of payments in recent years that went to NRA board members who are supposed to be overseeing the organization’s finances. For example, one former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was reportedly paid $400,000 for his public outreach efforts.
The Washington Post has documented, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence, that 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board collected money during the past three years,
The NRA lobby also spent $30+ million in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy. Not surprisingly, any and all new gun control measures are off the White House agenda.
Through all of this, the NRA is now reported to be more than $40 million in debt.
And finally, there is Maria Butina, who was recently released from a federal prison and deported to Moscow after pleading guilty last year of conspiring with a senior Russian official to gain favor with the NRA and other political organizations and failing to register in the United States as a Russian foreign agent.
What follows are just some of the current 2019 investigations:
NRA Campaign Finance Violations (US Senate and House investigation)
NRA Non-Profit Status (US House Ways and Means Committee)
NRA Financial Mismanagement (New York Attorney General)
NRA Non-Profit Status (District of Columbia Attorney General)
NRA Financial Impropriety and Non-Profit Status (US Senate Intelligence Committee)
NRA Political Ties to Russia (US Senate Intelligence Committee)
NRA Financial Ties to Russia (US Senate Finance Committee)
In summary, the NRA gets its money annually from membership fees assessed to its five million true believers and vested interest corporate supporter donations. And, as money so often corrupts, the NRA now appears to be just another example of corporate greed running wild. That would be bad enough, but the NRA’s “legacy of blood” through its continued endorsement of semi-automatic assault rifles and other military weapons has added numerous deaths and immense human suffering to its guilt.
The Constitution of the United States, distorted by the NRA via the 2nd amendment, was never meant to be the means for a money-making corporation to pretend mass murders of citizens have nothing to do with the USA’s incredibly lax gun restrictions.
Nearly three decades ago, Supreme Court Justice Chief Justice Warren Burger, a lifelong conservative, called the NRA’s Gun Control interpretation of the Second amendment “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat, fraud – on the American public … that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
Joseph Batory is the author of three books and more than 100 published articles on politics, education and history.