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NRA’s Response to Bankruptcy Ruling

First, NRA had no response.

I think all stories have been updated at this point, but every single initial article out there had quotes from the gun control groups who – wisely – wrote their planned responses in advance. Or, perhaps had the benefit of not being litigants so they could speak off of the cuff. All of those same articles initially said that NRA had no comment.

There were only a few ways that this would likely go:

  • NRA wins on its terms
  • NRA is allowed to proceed with bankruptcy, but would have some kind of outside oversight
  • Dismissal

From a mix of legal/PR perspective, I can understand why you wouldn’t want to say too much if the second result had come out of the case. It would have been pretty complex, so some kind of platitude about looking forward to options and working with the court would be possible.

But there isn’t a reason in the world there wasn’t a statement ready to go for dismissal. It was obvious from the judge’s question to the parties before closing that this was a very likely outcome! There was plenty of time to have a few sentences ready that also acknowledge you needed more time to fully review the ruling. But, no. NRA wasn’t ready to acknowledge the reality of their situation.

In fact, this seems to be a trend. The main NRA account on a platform used to follow my account, even as I became increasingly publicly vocal about my opposition to things they were doing. However, when I put up a request asking for recommendations for a non-NRA postal match that could make a fun, short range activity for National Shooting Sports Month since I heard from people they were not open to potentially sending money to NRA for anything that could end up seized by the NY Attorney General and given to Mike Bloomberg in the next year before the postal match even closed. Acknowledgement that NRA might not win? That’s an unfollow! Anything that isn’t 100% “Wayne’s gonna lead us to freedom!” is not allowed to be seen or discussed it seems.

Back to the court case, NRA after some time had a quote from Wayne as its only response. It makes clear they are remaining in New York and there will be no changes to anything involving members.

Which is nice since I kept pointing out to people that NRA was refusing to release any proposed bylaws for this new organization they were trying to form which means they likely weren’t going to have the same rights as members. If they didn’t want us to know about those rights, that’s usually a sign members need to be concerned. Certainly, this mindset of not wanting members to know their rights or know what’s going on follows my path of trying to get an election committee report out of the organization that has always been available to members before. Now I’m getting the run around and silence, despite being a life member.

Finally (for now), NRA has a longer statement published late last night. As John Richardson noted, it’s not at all a surprise that Wayne & Bill Brewer try to put a positive spin on a unilateral loss. It’s PR, so that is what you do. However, their statement is a joke.

One of the highlights NRA chose to pull out of the opinion is this:

“In short, the testimony…suggests that the NRA now understands the importance of compliance.”

Would you like to know what the full sentence says?

“In short, the testimony of Ms. Rowling and several others suggests that the NRA now understands the importance of compliance.”

Sonya Rowling, part of an early whistleblowing group to Wayne’s behaviors who has (shockingly) avoided being fired, was recognized by the judge:

“…the Court’s impression of her from her testimony as a champion of compliance.”

In fact, NRA is ignoring two key paragraphs where the judge specifically addresses Wayne LaPierre’s behavior – behavior he says gives the Court particular reason to be concerned about the future of the NRA:

“Some of the conduct that gives the Court concern is still ongoing. The NRA appears to have very recently violated its approval procedures for contracts in excess of $100,000. Mr. LaPierre is still making additional financial disclosures. There are also lingering issues of secrecy and a lack of transparency. For example, even after hearing testimony from several witnesses, it is still very unclear why Mr. Spray, an officer everyone seemed to hold in high regard for his talent and integrity, parted ways with the NRA two weeks into this bankruptcy case. What is clear is that Mr. Spray’s departure was precipitated by a call from Mr. LaPierre without involvement of the board of directors.

“What concerns the Court most though is the surreptitious manner in which Mr. LaPierre obtained and exercised authority to file bankruptcy for the NRA. Excluding so many people from the process of deciding to file for bankruptcy, including the vast majority of the board of directors, the chief financial officer, and the general counsel, is nothing less than shocking.”

Now I wouldn’t expect NRA to make this front and center of their press release. However, I do find it problematic that they would edit out the Court’s praise of other people’s work to undo the damage that Wayne LaPierre has done to the organization’s processes to frame it as praise for Wayne’s leadership.

As John Richardson, again, insightfully observed, the decision makes clear that Wayne’s actions and testimony are 100% the reason for the dismissal as a not in good faith filing.

Because Wayne kept it secret from so many, more weight had to be put on his testimony. Because the only people who knew about it were Wayne and the Special Litigation Committee (the Board’s officers – President, 1st VP, and 2nd VP), the judge felt like he had to focus on their testimony on the validity of the filing.

However, the leadership of the Board, it turns out, was not helpful. The Special Litigation Committee who claim to be so on top of things and know everything going on despite having to call emergency meetings to do things they legally needed to do ages ago? Yeah, this is what the Court says about their contributions to defending NRA’s bankruptcy motives:

“The Court received testimony from all three members of the Special Litigation Committee, but their testimony did not explore the reasons for filing bankruptcy in much depth.”

So that leaves just Wayne to focus on. And, folks, he was not a good witness for the NRA at all. His own attorneys admitted that quite a bit of what he said and what was disclosed about his leadership was – and this is a direct quote from the closings – “cringeworthy.”

I don’t really want to quote an entire page from the Court’s decision, but it begins at the end of page 22 and takes up all of page 23. But let’s just say that this opening of that section should tell the Board all it needs to know about Wayne’s competency to represent the organization at this stage:

“The most helpful testimony from Mr. LaPierre came during an exchange when counsel for one of the movants was attempting to discern which of the many reasons for filing for bankruptcy that have been discussed was the real driving force behind Mr. LaPierre’s decision.”

When the judge says that the most helpful testimony in ruling against you came out of a cross examination, there is almost zero chance that you’ve done a decent job representing yourself and your organization.

I’m really quite surprised that they didn’t cherry pick the bit about Wayne providing “the most helpful testimony” as an endorsement of his leadership.

So back to NRA’s statement on this whole mess. There is actually one summarized quote from Wayne that I do agree with as a positive for members! They say, “today’s decision – and the ongoing independence of the NRA – empowers the Association’s approximately 5 million members.”

However, the reason that it’s true is not for reasons NRA wants. It’s because it means the members still have the protection of the current organization’s bylaws. As mentioned above, this is a strong concern of mine that secrecy has been kept on what the organization will look like and how the rights of members will be protected.

One of the other standout features is that the release of NRA’s statement quotes Bill Brewer before it quotes the NRA’s own president. I cannot fathom where this would be appropriate protocol unless the Board has ceded all control to Bill Brewer in practice. (And there’s argument to be made that it has – Judge Hale certainly seems to have concerns.)

I did snort at one line in the release: “The bankruptcy hearing became the nation’s highest-profile legal proceeding of its kind.” Yes, but not for good reasons. And not just because it was NRA. Because it was jaw-dropping that they would file bankruptcy, publicly announce they weren’t in any financial trouble at all, and then proudly admit it was to get out from under scrutiny of an investigation that was initially just political but turned out to have very credible and damning results of wrongdoing. Being watched closely is not a good thing in this case!

In general, this public response highlights that it’s time for Wayne to go, along with most of the yes men he has put into place. This is an embarrassment to the organization, especially as anyone remotely literate can read what the judge really said.

19 Responses to “NRA’s Response to Bankruptcy Ruling”

  1. Andy B. says:

    I was never an infantryman, but the minimal infantry training I did get in the Vietnam Era included, “when something makes you look down, look up as quick as you can; and if something makes you look left, look right as quick as you can.”

    So far everything seems contrived to keep us looking at Wayne LaPierre and What He Said.

    I will be very interested, when the dust settles, to see whether WLP is living in shame and isolation, or has retired in considerable comfort, with lots of political friends.

  2. HappyWarrior6 says:

    I wish I could get my lifetime/endowment/benefactor/patron dues back. That’s the only thing I’m actually upset about, besides the grifting of course. I’ve been rooting for the NYAG the whole time pretty much.

    • Bitter says:

      You want full dissolution & distribution of assets up to her?

      I get being down about the whole thing, but that’s nuts.

      Being a voting member may be very valuable in the next year or so. Keep your eye on trying to keep an organization together for the next 150 years.

      • Andy B. says:

        “You want full dissolution & distribution of assets up to her?”

        At present there is no one associated with the NRA who I trust. Either trust not to return to the NRA’s grifting ways, or who I would trust not to route benefits and control/power to others with an “alternative” agenda that sees 2A defense and preservation only as a cash cow.

        So, I can see advantages to having her clean our NRA slate for us. It might give the gun rights movement at least a slim chance of creating a truly reformed entity. Otherwise, I can sense the grift-vultures circling the failing beast at this very minute.

        • Andy B. says:

          “At present there is no one associated with the NRA who I trust.”

          Maybe this is public record and something I should already know, but, who was responsible for the almost-instant endorsement of Donald Trump in 2016? Was there a board vote on the issue? If so, were there any dissidents to that decision? What was their reasoning?

          Empirically, disaster followed, not only for the NRA, but for the Republican Party. Gun rights are more threatened than ever. Just as empirically, I would suggest that anyone who was party to the endorsement decision be excluded from any future in the NRA or whatever follows it. Their tactical vision bordered on non-existent.

          • Bitter says:

            Why are you talking to yourself? I’ve noticed an increase in the number of times you literally reply to your own comments when you don’t get reactions from people.

            Do you realize that the biggest reason many of your comments receive no response is because they aren’t read by many people when they see the name? I tell Sebastian he’s far too kind given the complaints received from thoughtful readers who bailed after your longwinded nearly troll level comments under your various names. (It’s not just the behind the scenes stuff that tells us its you; your style is ridiculously recognizable even as you’ve generally limited your comment length lately.)

            You do realize that you’re 1/3 of the comments in this thread where no one is responding to your commentary?

            • Andy B. says:

              “I’ve noticed an increase in the number of times you literally reply to your own comments when you don’t get reactions from people.”

              I reply to my own comments when I have later, additional thoughts, and want to make sure they are closely appended to my original comment.

              Why aren’t those “thoughtful readers” big enough boys to complain in public, rather than going Running to Teacher? Believe it or not, I would respect such style/volume-based public complaints — unless their only foundation was that they disagreed with what I said, and so found a little “cancel culture” to be in order.

              Now, do you have any answers to the questions I asked?

              • Bitter says:

                To be frank, you don’t add to any serious conversation that’s based in the reality of working with others successfully. The commenters who left haven’t run to teacher as much as been expressing annoyance at how – in many cases – you’ve brought down the level of discourse, especially when you decide to put on one of your other fake names to take over conversations that aren’t going your way. This is literally the only comment from you I’ve even read since I did ask you a direct question about why you’re taking over comments again – you’re 1/4 of the comments on the next post, again, responding to yourself at times when no one will indulge you. I just see the name and know that whatever is under it comes from a rambler so I skip.

      • ThmsMgnm says:

        Lol. The NRA Board has made member drive reform impossible and does everything possible to drive out anyone who would try to reform the organization. The corruption is pervasive.

        • Bitter says:

          They made it hard, but definitely not impossible. You need to provide specifics of exactly which policies you believe made things “impossible” to overcome and make the case for that based on data or historical precedent.

          UPDATE: I just posted about this topic with some facts and figures.

    • BillTheCat says:

      I have no regrets about my membership and dearly love our organization, though I’m disgusted with its management and board. I guess I still see the NRA as being bigger than Wayne, et al, and still hold some hope that it can be salvaged.

  3. dwb says:

    They never seem to have anything ready to go. Same as it ever was. When there are mass shootings, they are similarly silent. The other side rolls out the tears, all ready to go to exploit the tragedy. You would think after so many years, they would figure it out.

    I blame the fact that the NRA seems to be living in the 80s media cycle, where they probably do have days to comment. One day to get WLP off his mistress, another day for her to write a comment, another day for him to edit it,, and the next day they send it for the 6oclock news. WLP probably still thinks the 6 o clock news is a thing.

    • HappyWarrior6 says:

      Truth.

      The NRA, for the intense media efforts and flashy site graphics they rolled out, was a mile wide and an inch deep. And yes, their official policy on mass shootings was (by Sebastian’s admission after Newtown) to wait to respond after a few days. In some ways this was thoughtful while the bodies were still warm, but it was no longer prudent after social media starting hitting back HARD minutes after. Wayne (and even Chris) didn’t get it. They would give interviews days after a major event. Then they would weigh in on non-gun rights topics with Angry Dana.

      The problem was the cat was out of the bag by 2012 and, yeah, Twitter was a thing by then. By that point they were losing before they even tried.

      I’m a HARD Happy Warrior ™, but we should adapt to fighting for gun rights without the NRA’s help. In fact, by some recent accounts, they were actually actively working against us. There are a whole new slew of gun rights 2.0/3.0/4.0 groups who are willing to take over from here. If a shorter, leaner, scrappier NRA emerges from this without Wayne and his enablers at the helm then that’s a bonus.

      • Andy B. says:

        “There are a whole new slew of gun rights 2.0/3.0/4.0 groups who are willing to take over from here.”

        I would give anything for a fool-proof way of vetting groups for altruism and sincerity, and for flushing out front groups.

        As I’ve commented before, the gun rights movement years ago (40+?) became a magnet for charlatans, opportunists, and front-men, because for some reason our issue seems to attract the incredibly gullible. E.g., all any pol needed to do was master the phrase “enforce existing laws” and 95 percent of gun owners would follow them anywhere.

        I know that sounds unnecessarily insulting, but I watched it work for too many years to deny it was true. I speak now only in frustration.

  4. Richard says:

    There are really only two ways forward. One is that the board fires WLP. Then some complicit board members resign and reformers are appointed, then more board members resign and more reformers are reported. Repeat as often as necessary. Then they have to find a new EVP who is honest, committed, and has the skills to run a large organization living at a cultural flash point. Then they need to make structural reforms in the governance of the organization. Do all that and the NRA can continue as a force using its loyal following. This would be ideal but after all the water under the bridge, I have little confidence that the board will do this or even understands the problem.

    The second way is that the NRA is dissolved or simply sinks into irrelevance. At that point, it will need to be replaced. It will have to be something new since with one exception (The 2A Foundation) the existing gun rights organizations are even worse grifters. As for the 2A Foundation, they are great but have a different mission. The logical base for such a new organization is a cadre of the board members who tried to fix things before it came to this pass.

  5. Jim W says:

    One sort of odd thing is why the NY AG is going after the NRA organization while the problem is clearly the people running it. I can understand from a political perspective why they are doing this (the NRA is their enemy, destroy the enemy) but from a legal standpoint it makes no sense- everything corrupt the NRA is accused of by the NY AG is actually being done by WLP and his friends- the NRA membership is the victim being stolen from. You would think the remedy here would be to arrest the thieves rather than to burn down the house they stole from and execute the people living there.

    Is it possible that the membership of the NRA could get together on a class action basis and seek to intervene in the NY state case? It’s a civil case to dissolve a corporation, is it not? I would think they have a pretty clear legal interest in the outcome of the case, no?

    This isn’t an area of law I have much knowledge of at all, unfortunately.

    • Bitter says:

      I’ll be honest, I’m also confused at how none of the courts seem to be concerned about the rights of members in any meaningful way. Which leaves me less hopeful that NY courts would be when the James suit comes before them. I would assume that if there was a way for members to file in some way, one of the big donor groups would have already organized that, but they don’t appear to have done so.

      As for your analysis of the root of the problem, it is spot on. Law professors who study non-profit legal governance have commented on how unusual her moves are from a legal and regulatory standpoint. Therefore a good number don’t think full dissolution will be a likely outcome because it’s so extreme and usually reserved for smaller groups that have no likely replacement for corrupt individuals who actually caused the harm. However, the testimony in the bankruptcy trial only made the appearance that it can’t operate without Wayne and that the rot is deeper than expected due to Wayne’s control worse which doesn’t help the organization’s defense.

      It’s entirely possible that once they realized how bad things were (and how even other insiders didn’t realize just how bad it was across his entire sphere of influence), they just decided to go for dissolution figuring that if they get a favorable judge, they kneecap the gun owning public’s lead organizer and if they don’t get dissolution, they still damage the organization. Dissolution makes headlines, sanctions and early retirements don’t. Dissolution headlines mean lots of news stories to casual NRA members that talk about how corrupt Wayne is and the board is happy to float the notion that Wayne is the NRA. So if they don’t want to be affiliated with corruption, they should leave. Even if she doesn’t get dissolution, the talk of dissolution is still a win.

  6. David W Lawson says:

    I am a life/endowment/benefactor/patron member, 2A activist, and 2A plaintiff. I’m disgusted with NRA and have been withholding financial support for years now due to WLP.

    What can we do? Would coming to the members meeting and protesting be useful?

    • Bitter says:

      That’s an excellent question, and I don’t know how to answer with a result that will be effective in time. Part of the problem is that it seems Wayne’s buddies on the board – at best – deny committee assignments and other access to any leadership role if you ever disagree with them.

      Worse, they showed with Ollie that if you dare to show you have a spine and might make a difference, that any challengers can expect to end up sued and denied indemnification for dissenting votes. Unless someone has insanely deep pockets, that’s going to be tough to take.

      Which means recruiting ethical leaders is not only challenging, but rather cruel to the average Joe or Jane. (Plus, if dissolution is going to happen, who wants their name on the list of leaders who watched the ship go down?) That said, if there are people willing to take the risk, there’s got to be a bigger move to get eligible voters to actually vote and bullet vote.

      The turnout for NRA elections is ridiculously low for a mail in vote, so it should be possible, in theory, to do with a few thousand voters who suddenly participate. And they can’t just rely on reaching people online – it’s got to be in the gun clubs, in the gun shows, in the gun shops, etc. That’s where those votes are. If someone is hanging out on a gun forum that’s discussing NRA elections, chances are they are already voting. Flipping their vote might help, but it’s not going to win.

      Withholding financial support is absolutely a must, though I know it’s hurting some decent people whose names are rarely known publicly who are in it for the fight for rights. As even Judge Hale noted, he found there were people inside dedicated to compliance – just not Wayne or those he tried to control in violation of the organization’s bylaws. And I suspect Wayne & crew will make sure those people hurt long before he does.

      As for protesting the Members Meeting, that I’m not sure about. Certainly, it would grab attention. However, the more you turn out to do that, the more likely they will shut down all debate or someone who doesn’t know the governing rules of the organization will end up doing something stupid that either helps close things or will end up garnering votes that don’t help. Grassroots can be powerful; they can also be dumb even if well-meaning. Which then gives the controlling crowd the ability to look sharp and like the better alternative.

      I have yet to hear a Member Meeting plan that I feel could work, though I suspect that would have to be part of any solution.

      One of the biggest issues is that even if we can get Wayne & the fellow grifters & grift-endorsers out, then issue doesn’t stop. We then have to build the organization back up. And that’s going to be hard if there’s any kind of scorched earth campaign with the organization’s reputation.

      In other words, it’s complicated, there will be imperfect attempts, and I only wish I had answers.

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