Gag Order?

Red State is reporting today that NRA has issued a gag order to its Board about the Kagan hearings. This misunderstands how NRA works. Staff can not gag Board members. All they can do is ask them not to get involved in the proceedings. Perhaps the can demand it too, but their opinions for punishment are fairly limited. Without backing from key members of the Board of Directors, there’s not really a whole lot staff could do to retaliate against a recalcitrant member. If they are enforcing a true gag order, then it would need to have backing from other key board members.

In the next question, it makes sense whether to ask whether or not it makes sense for NRA to ask its Board members to stay out of this. I would argue that it does, from their point of view. That said, I was happy to see Sandy Froman testifying against Sotomayor, but it’s worth noting I recall that she had to note on a few occasions she was there on her own accord, when Senators confused her position with NRA’s. Dave Kopel, not being directly associated with NRA, was a welcome, and I would not have an issue with him testifying against Kagan either. Halbrook also testified against Sotomayor, which was an issue because he is likely to appear before the Court at some point on a Second Amendment issue, and I don’t think it was wise for him to have gotten involved in a confirmation hearing in this regard.

I can see why staff would not want this complication, and don’t want Board members trying to force their hand in regards to what position to take on the confirmation. But this is pretty standard internal NRA politics. and not evidence of any betrayal, except maybe to the notion pushed by Red State that they ought to be the National Republican Association.

UPDATE: When I mention it’s pretty standard NRA politics, I mean it in the sense that Board members do things fairly regularly that staff wishes they wouldn’t do. Note also that I don’t speak of staff as an organic entity. NRA’s employees are made up of individuals who have different opinions on different matters, and is no more an organic entity than at your workplace. But for the sake of argument we can say Executive Staff — namely the people who have considerable influence inside the organization. That’s a smaller number of people, who’s viewpoint you could say comes closer to being an organic viewpoint within the organization.

What is Executive Staff going to do if they believe board member has done something problematic? They are elected to the position. The only way you can retaliate against them is through the Nominating Committee, which is an organ of the Board, and not Staff. This is not to suggest Staff can exert no influence over this process at all, but the nominating process is such that the Committee has the ultimate power. If the members of the Nominating Committee don’t agree with Staff, the Nominating Committee wins. I can promise you, over the years, the Nominating Committee has nominated quite a number of people Staff wishes they didn’t. That’s the way NRA works. Even if the Nominating Committee gives you the cold shoulder, you still have the opinion of running by petition, requiring 250 voting members to get on the ballot. Most Board members, in my experience, try to do this anyway, even if the Nominating Committee is sure to renominate them. That said, getting rejected by the Committee is, with rare exception, a ticket off the Board. So if there is a gag order, it must have the backing of the members’ elected Board members. Otherwise it’s just a polite request.

17 thoughts on “Gag Order?”

  1. Sebastian, RedState has obviously confirmed that the NRA has indeed tried to order board members not to testify:

    these internal Senate emails confirmed by NRA Board Members show that the National Rifle Association’s management team has explicitly and directly told the NRA’s board they are prohibited from testifying about second amendment issues during the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings.

    Note the words ‘explicitly’, ‘directly’ and ‘prohibited’. Doesn’t sound like a friendly suggestion to me.

    And why, pray tell, is the NRA shying away from opposing Kagan? The little she’s written about the 2A is shitty as hell. For a single-issue organzition (that being defense of the 2A) I would think the opposition to Kagan would be automatic.

    Show me one thing that Kagan has said or written about the 2A that is positive.

  2. @ Packetman.

    I don’t think it’s too difficult to figure out where NRA is going with this nomination if you read their statement.

    As for NRA’s internal process, they simply can’t afford to have 76 Directors taking positions on legislation, nominations or other issues.

  3. I understand why it’s a problem to have board members testifying in their personal capacity and then having their personal opinions construed as those of the NRA. But considering the strong evidence that we have a virulent, anti-gunowner SCOTUS nominee, what would be the problem with having Ron Schmeits testify on behalf of the NRA? What’s the downside? It would certainly help dispel the silly notion, spread by guys like Erickson, that the NRA leadership is a bunch of limp-wristed sellouts.

  4. Because NRA doesn’t and shouldn’t base it’s political calculation on what Erick Erickson thinks about them. And having the NRA President testify would be NRA taking a position on the matter.

    I’m not sure what position NRA is going to take on Kagan. I’m not sure NRA knows what position it’s going to take on Kagan. It’s day one right now, in her confirmation hearings. I think what staff wants right now is not having their Board narrow their options.

  5. Narrow their options? You only have confirmation hearings once, so the NRA’s options are (1) get directly involved at the outset or (2) don’t. It’s not like a medieval battle, where we hide behind a hill and then ambush the Dems if they happen to win. If we don’t get involved and Kagan wins, then we lose.

    I’m sure that Chris Cox and the rest of the team are doing lots of great stuff behind the scenes under option (2), but the general membership has no idea what the “great stuff” is, and NRA-ILA rarely deigns to explain it to us. If the NRA’s best invisible, behind-the-scenes magic still results in Kagan being confirmed, despite an apparent opportunity presented by the fissures in the Dem coalition, then that’s a defeat that will sting us for decades.

    From the viewpoint of the average NRA member, it looks like this:our representatives remain publicly silent about the prospect of putting another statist gun-banner on the Supreme Court for 30-40 years, while Erick Erickson and Hugh Hewitt (both respected names in the conservative movement, for good reason) tell the membership what the NRA leadership is selling us all out. I’m a life member and an enthusiastic defender of the organization, but this is difficult to explain.

  6. It’s day one of the confirmation hearings, and I would note that NRA opposed Sotomayor, and she was still confirmed. Even if they don’t oppose, don’t presume it’s just rolling over. NRA’s political power isn’t infinite, but it is compared to any other group that’s bitching about their stance on this issue so far.

  7. @ Mike

    “I don’t think it’s too difficult to figure out where NRA is going with this nomination if you read their statement.”

    See the following from Sebastian, natch:

    “I’m not sure what position NRA is going to take on Kagan. I’m not sure NRA knows what position it’s going to take on Kagan.”

    And for my part, I couldn’t find the NRA statement on Kagan on either of the NRA’s websites.

    I predict that, like the Sotomayor nomination, the NRA will make some limp-wristed statement that they oppose Kagan.

    Now, since I’m not an NRA member (and probably never will be) I can’t say for certain whether or not the membership likes being compared to the KKK. As I was invited to join the KKK long ago on the basis of an editorial I wrote for the local paper, I know I don’t particularly enjoy it (yes, I declined).

    Here’s a thought: Maybe the NRA should act like the 800 lb gorilla and lower the NRA rating a full letter grade for any senator who votes to confirm Kagan.

  8. Sebastian,

    When are you going to realize that ‘wisely spending their political capital’ and defending an enumerated Right are two different things?

    The McDonald case was due to the SAF, frankly no thanks to the NRA stealing a third of Gura’s time before the Supremes, yet I keep reading about the “NRA victory” in the anti-gun’s handwringing over the decision. “Political capital” is useless if they’re not willing to spend it.

    And let’s not forget the NRA’s attempt to derail Heller, back when it was still called Parker….

  9. When exactly is the NRA going to fight for the second amendment rights then? After the court is expanded and packed with Obama appointees?

    This stance by the organization and your words do not pass the smell test.

    1. Expanded? Where’s the plan to expand it? This is an internet rumor that I haven’t seen yet. I bet that is a worth a barrel of laughs.

      In case you’ve forgotten, the GOP can filibuster if need be. There was that election you might have heard about – Scott Brown. If anything too radical is tried, I’m sure they’ll be sure to call him in.

  10. Now you’ve made me lol irl – when was the last time the GOP successfully held a filibuster line? They just hold out long enough to get bought.

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