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Our Take on George Kollitides for NRA Board

Bitter explains why we did not choose George Kollitides as one of our endorsed candidates.  I don’t know of any issues with Kollitides that make me think he’d be a bad board member, but I also don’t understand what he’s bringing to the table either.  I suspect he will win a board seat, and maybe he’ll impress.  Bitter’s comments on Kollitides and a few other suggestions for Board of Directors are below the fold.


Some people may wonder just why Sebastian and I chose not to get on the “everyone’s doing it” bandwagon of endorsing George Kollitides for the NRA Board. Let me explain my reasons.

But first, let me say that I have nothing against the guy. I’m sure he is a very nice person, and just suddenly joining the gun industry as quickly and deeply as Cerberus Capital Management has, I’m sure he’s gotten quite the exposure to the issue.

There, I already broke the first rule of endorsing George Kollitides, I said Cerberus. Cerberus. Cerberus. Cerberus. (It’s like Beetlejuice. Say it three times, and I bet they start tracking this blog…)

Understandably, Cerberus is trying to brand their firearms companies under a new name: Freedom Group, Inc. I’m sure they’ve probably conducted a poll that finds gun owners are not the types who are thrilled with a private group taking $4 billion in tax dollars to bailout one of the worst investments: Chrysler. This would be the same firm that decided to take out full-page ads in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the tune of $400K+ thanking taxpayers for giving up their hard earned dough to continue supporting a dying company. Ultimately, this doesn’t have anything to do with George Kollitides the NRA Board nominee, but I’m saying it in the interest of full disclosure since I have a history of calling out PR campaigns for what they are.

My concern with Kollitides is what he would bring to the Board. So far, I haven’t seen anything that indicates he’d be a particularly noteworthy candidate. AR15.com says that because he’s involved with a company that makes EBRs, he’ll push for their prominence within NRA. First, I would ask if this is really a concern since NRA has fought every effort to renew an “assault weapons” ban that’s come up. Is there really some way in which NRA is selling EBR owners short? Second, if it does exist, what would George Kollitides do to stop such behavior?

I tend to doubt that the folks over at AR15.com have talked to him about this issue. If they have, and they posted an interview or anything like that, feel free to link it. However, my experience, when I pursued the idea of NRA member bloggers doing a short interview with him about his board run through someone trusted in the gun world, was that Cerberus has a policy of no interviews ever. So given that response, I tend to doubt they snagged any kind of real Q&A that would address exactly what he would do to address shortcomings at NRA in regards to EBRs.

My only experience with George Kollitides is non-experience. See, most committees at NRA have a handful of non-board members appointed to them. Kollitides sits on the Hunting, Wildlife, and Conservation Committee. The last time they met at the September 2008 board meeting, Kollitides was not there. Committee members are flown to DC, put up in the Westin during their stay, and fed on NRA’s dime. Is it really that hard to show up once? Given that it’s the only track record I’ve observed, I think it’s fair to question if groups endorsing him are actually endorsing yet another empty seat on the board.

Now, I know that this is probably useless since he’s got the biggest EBR forum pushing for him, has all of the company websites advertising for him, bought space in NRA magazines to run ads and articles promoting him, and recently joined more pro-gun groups after his loss last year. With that kind of PR splash, he will probably win a seat.

However, I think it’s important that voting members actually know and understand their NRA. While Kollitides may in fact be a great board member, I have yet to see any argument or evidence that he brings something unique and tangible to the table over other candidates. If he can show use what he brings to the table, then I might be convinced he’s worth endorsing. Until then, I think my questions and concerns about uncertainty as to what engaged NRA members get with him in the seat are perfectly reasonable.

If you want industry expertise and a demonstrated, public record for standing up for gun rights, then I suggest you vote for Ronnie Barrett. Besides, he was actually willing to talk to bloggers last year when he ended up at the same bar as our Blog Bash opening night reception by chance.

In the meantime, there are even other non-endorsed candidates who I believe, based on my experience and what I’ve heard from those who have been to many board meetings over the years, would make sure that the seat doesn’t grow cold from lack of engagement. In no particular order, there’s John Burtt of Fifty-Caliber Institute, Bill Bachenberg who is active with the NRA Foundation, Herb Lanford who has been praised widely for his work with clubs & associations, Wayne Anthony Ross who, as I recall, broke with NRA to endorse Sarah Palin in her run for Governor when they had to endorse the incumbent, or Robert Sanders who has received accolades from folks who follow the Civil Rights Defense Fund committee.

10 Responses to “Our Take on George Kollitides for NRA Board”

  1. HeavenlySword says:

    Who is bitter?

  2. Sebastian says:

    Former gun blogger, sometimes co-blogger here. My girlfriend.

  3. Bitter says:

    Or, you could click the link and find out.

  4. HeavenlySword says:

    i see. nice blog

    I found Vital Pizza Research to be hilarious.

    I actually live in the Hellish State of NY, so I will try to contact Ms. Gillibrand.

    Are you guys on The High Road? just wondering.

  5. N.U.G.U.N. says:

    One thing, it’s quite possible he couldn’t make the committee meeting because they were in the process of dealing with the auto industry collapse.

    Just saying…

    ***

    I don’t know enough at this point, I’ll probably vote for those I hear good support for (both Snowflakes endorsements, AR15, etc)

    I am more concerned about who I should NOT vote for? (ie: those who just don’t get it, do not understand new media and are hostile to it, board members who have been petty and backstabbing to the detriment of all, etc)

  6. Bitter says:

    NUGUN, it is possible he may have been tied up. However, I don’t recall the chair noting that he called in with his absence. Normally the chairs of the committee will announce any members who notify them of conflicts after the roll is called. I really don’t remember anything noteworthy, and I was paying attention because I wondered what his real interests were, especially in regards to his one committee. (For example, it’s much easier to see Joe’s connections to the two committees he serves on – and he was at the last board meeting.)

    The other thing is that they have these meetings at a Westin which is more than well-equipped for people to conduct business. In fact, you’ll always see board/committee members running up to their rooms after meetings or taking business phone calls. And NRA doesn’t designate your flights. If you needed to hop down for just a day or leave first thing the following morning, they allow you the freedom to do that when making travel arrangements.

    I’m more than understanding that they do have concerns with their car industry investments – and, based on the announcement this week, their grocery store investments – but that again points to someone who will be too distracted to actually contribute and properly serve on the board. If that’s the case, there are folks who will have more time and a demonstrated record of filling the seat. If it won’t be a concern, it’s up to Kollitides to prove us wrong, either by proving a longer record of activism or speaking up to explain why he didn’t attend the one meeting since last May.

  7. DirtCrashr says:

    For some reason, having seen him in American Rifleman and wondering what the heck he was all about, I didn’t get a good grasp of intention or intergrity – I think he’s a businessman pure and simple with bottom-line driven goals and could easily be a Trojan Horse – or just a trojan.

  8. Bitter says:

    I don’t think there’s any negative intention. I haven’t seen anything that indicates there is, anyway. I just brought this up because many groups he’s advertised with have come out in favor, but having actually attended board meetings, I haven’t seen evidence that any seat he’d win wouldn’t be better served by anyone else. If he can ever say why he’s a better candidate than anyone else on the ballot, then that would be one thing.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a businessman, but I just want to know how his background really actually helps NRA members. Just because he works for a company that owns a company that makes black rifles doesn’t make him a quality NRA leader who can contribute to the organization. I think there are people with very similar backgrounds who actually have a record to stand on.

  9. A well written blog, but I think there’s some information lacking. I would like to simply address the question posed on our support of George and why we feel he’s a good board member.

    First off, we would never endorse someone for such an important role without having spoken to them personally and finding out what makes them tick, what their reasons are for seeking such a position, and why they will represent our growing niche in the firearms world. As such I personally spoke to George and posed a number of questions to him, things we felt were very important to us personally and to the “EBR” community. For too long we were the “bastards” of the firearm world, a small niche market attacked as much from within as from the antis. With the rise in popularity of the platform, we are now as mainstream as it can get, so it’s now important we have a stronger voice.

    In regards to the NRA, they have always fought on our behalf, but not always felt as strongly towards the “EBR” rights as they have towards other areas. This changed significantly in the past several years, moving from a “secondary” concern to the front. In that time, our personal relationship with the NRA has grown as well, as we’ve encouraged and supported that all “EBR” supporters continue to back the NRA and voice their concerns. As such the bonds we have formed should only reassure the community that our voices are very important to the fight and that our impact in Washington will be felt very clearly.

    So we now come down to why? Why do we support a man who, according to this post, simply is a new face to the community. While George has not had the public spotlight on him and his firearm background, he has been a strong part of the community for years. He has spent years as a hunter and the companies the Freedom Group represent are among the very best and brightest in the AR market. Earning support among what I know is a VERY rough crowd is an accomplishment in itself. For us to throw our support behind him should also be a sign that he will not only represent the firearm community as a whole, but also voice the concerns of the “EBR” fans out there who often waiver on how the NRA views us. George is a shooter, a hunter, and an AR fan. He is as passionate about firearms as anyone out there and he will serve us, yes, SERVE us, well in such a role.

    Before I go, I would also like to mention our support of Joseph DeBergalis, who we also feel would be a strong and faithful voice on the board. I have access to both men and would be willing to post any questions to either/both of them on behalf of the community. I only ask that you contact me via email.

    This is a critical time for our rights and we need to ensure everyone is in this together. No matter who makes the NRA Board, I am very confident the NRA and our board members will do everything in their power to represent all of us.

  10. Bitter says:

    Perhaps it would help to read the full endorsement posts to better understand this post. You might discover that we have actually endorsed Joe and are planning an interview with him where we took reader questions. Sebastian is running it, so he’ll have the details at some point.

    I also don’t see actual specifics about how NRA is treating you so badly. You said that you “feel” they haven’t fought hard for you guys, give hard examples, please. My questions focus on the lack of evidence on this matter as opposed to those “feelings” and what would actually be accomplished by his presence.

    In addition, is there evidence that this would not be an empty seat? Kollitides’s committee did not meet in January, so he did not need to be there. It did meet in September, I was there, and I noted that I don’t recall him even sending regrets for his absence. Is there evidence from past behavior that this isn’t an endorsement for an empty seat? If there is evidence, I would be happy to consider it. I made clear that I’m speaking from my experience of regularly attending the meetings – and I’m not even paid to do so. I’m not a fan of empty seat board members unless there are extenuating circumstances. If he does manage to win a seat this year, I certainly hope that he’ll prove me wrong and show up, or at least notify his chairman as to why he is unable to serve.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Snowflakes in Hell » Blog Archive » NRA Board Election Update - [...] I also think is a good candidate.  I’m officially neutral on the matter of Kollitides, but we have not …
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