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The Year Without Petition Candidates

I had to submit a new request for NRA bylaws because I realized two major issues:

  1. I can’t figure out exactly who will be on the board (assuming write-in candidates don’t win) after this election. So I went to check my copy of the bylaws of the NRA.
  2. In checking the bylaws, I realized that the Board can unilaterally change how certain board members are elected and appointed without any notice to the membership.

What? That seems…problematic given the history that’s been well on display in their current legal fiascos.

I’ll be honest, I don’t realize how I never noticed it. Though, unless you’re on a bylaws committee charged with reviewing every little detail and seeing how it all works together, it’s easy to miss because it’s only something disclosed via font & format, not by direct statement. I do realize that they cleaned this section up in the bylaws provisions I did support, but the provision was there long before 2017 and did not change in any meaningful way. Supporting the bylaw amendments in 2017 didn’t change that they’ve been able to do this for a while.

So, a most recently passed bylaws copy has been requested and should be on its way – assuming Kathy the chat bot monitor actually did what was requested. Given how much I had to support “her” in the request after so long waiting for any response at all, I’m not overwhelmingly confident.

It would be interesting if they are trying to put up roadblocks to sending members documents they are entitled to receive because when I used the Membership Services links to request the report of the Committee on Elections, they spent a couple of weeks sending my requests through unrelated divisions.

Given the number of problems I’ve witnessed with departments at NRA in collapse, there’s just as much chance it’s incompetence as malice. But, given what I’m asking for directly relates to information needed to challenge the powers that made this bed, the latter can’t be taken off of the table. Neither answer is good for the state of the association.

But back to the Board – who will even be on the board next month? That’s what I wanted to know.

To figure that out, we have to try and figure out who is on the board today – which isn’t the same list published in the most recent official journal.

Why isn’t the most accurate list of Board members much help? You might think it’s because of the significant number of resignations, and that’s part of it. But it’s also because people who have been appointed to fill certain seats are only allowed to serve until Annual Meeting weekend. For all of the recent NRA board resignations that happened after ballots were printed (and more rumored possible forthcoming resignations), they will require another appointment until the next election cycle.

However, the bylaws the Directors cannot change without the members say they can only pull from the most recent election’s losers. That’s a problem for the NRA board and how little they actually thought about the situation they were facing.

See, they have 0 petition candidates and the Nominating Committee’s infinite wisdom only selected 30 candidates for what they assumed would be 25 seats. I’m sure they patted themselves on the back super proud of not needing more candidates since they didn’t need to beat down petition candidates this time. (They didn’t give those candidates enough time to collect petitions, even though the election timeline they used to cut that off wasn’t ever realistic – I have my doubts it was done in good faith. I don’t assume most things done by the board are done in good faith after some recent discussions.)

Now if they have 30 candidates for 25 seats, what’s the problem? Math and corruption are their problems.

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So Long, Ted Nugent

Ted Nugent has resigned from the NRA Board to be national spokesperson for Hunter Nation. God help them. If only this wasn’t because all the rats are leaving the sinking ship.

Wayne LaPierre a Bigger Risk Than Fire and Brimstone

According to The Reload, Lloyd’s of London is dropping all coverage for the NRA’s Board of Directors through their officers and directors insurance plan. As Phillip Journey, NRA Board Member, told the outlet, “I mean, if Lloyd’s won’t insure you, who the hell will?”

Well, here’s another way to look at it: What does Lloyd’s of London consider less risky than the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, Carolyn Meadows, Charles Cotton, and Willes Lee based on the fact that they will offer policies to these alternative risks?

Pele, the Volcano Goddess of Hawaiian mythical culture.

That’s right, Lloyd’s was willing to sell insurance to the residents of Leilani Estates who lived on top of an active volcano with a habit of making the earth open up and spew red hot lava at people and property. The decisions by the current NRA leadership are more risky than your front lawn turning into the fire above every few decades.

Intelsat 1 – A 1965 Satellite

The work to even get something ready to launch in 1965 was a massive risk. Not that it’s risk free today, but there are decidedly fewer exploding videos of space-related matter these days compared to those years. Yet Lloyd’s thought, yes, this is a risk we will insure! The current NRA leadership? Nope, too risky!

But to NRA, this is all just fine. They’ve just set aside just $5 million to cover all 76 directors. That doesn’t seem like nearly enough to me, but that’s just my opinion. People willing to speak off of the record to The Reload admit there isn’t much hope in finding coverage so this is likely the only solution moving forward.

Corrupting Influence of Paying Board Members

NRA’s bylaws do not permit Board members to be paid, but that’s been ignored outright, or done via state associations: NRA makes a grant to a state association, which conveniently pays the board member. A lot of folks are surprised by how compliant the NRA Board has been, but I suspect in many cases that’s being accomplished with the threat that those Board members may be required by the NY courts to pay some or all of that money back. Imaging if you had to pay, say, ten years of back salary? It would financially ruin most people. You’d probably be willing to listen to someone who came along telling you they could help you avoid that eventuality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to underestimate people’s ability to live in their own reality if the actual reality is too threatening for them. It’s human nature. But human nature is why we have institutional controls to prevent this kind of situation.

I’m a big fan in non-profit of a strict “no compensation for board members” rule. Board members should only be reimbursed for reasonable expenses associated with their service to the corporation. Not too long ago, my club implemented such a rule via board policy, and we did have a director with a landscaping contract. He did a good job. Our new outside contractor is slightly more expensive. I hated to vote in favor of ending that. But it had to be done. At some point, we need to get that in the bylaws so it can’t easily be undone by a future board.

You create systems that are resistant to corruption, so clued-in members have certain processes and procedures they are accustomed to which make graft more difficult. If a future board starts dismantling those systems, it should raise a red flag.

NRA Ballots: What To Do

I fully endorse John Richardson’s ballot. Vote for Owen Buz Mills, and that’s it. Write in Frank C. Tait, Wayne, PA, and R.B. Rocky Marshall Jr, Boerne, TX. The rest of them need to come to their senses and show Wayne and Bill the door, and start reestablishing trust and competence in the Association.

The Health of an Organization

One of my primary objectives as a new club president is to devolve a lot of the Board’s responsibility. The primary mechanism in civic organizations to accomplish this is the committee.

Younger people these days are so unfamiliar with civil society, I often worry about even using the word “committee.” Does it have good connotations? Governments have all kinds of committees, subcommittees, blue ribbon panels, etc and they don’t get anything done. At least not anything of value. Maybe we need a better word for it. We could go all corporate and adopt “team,” but I think that carries a lot of bullshit along with it these days too.

Our club was functionally a one, two, or three man show for a number of years. Sure, we had committees, but they were themselves generally one man shows, and those were often Board members. Until very recently, power was firmly rooted in three to four people at most. The rest of the Board was relatively powerless when push came to shove. Now we’ve devolved a lot of that power to the Board, and I’d like to devolve it further still.

Successful organizations aren’t a cult of personality. Successful organizations have processes. A successful organization is a machine that you can plug people into, and mechanisms are in place to keep the machine running even if the operators change. This is a very difficult task in a volunteer-driven organization. The distribution of power is a way to develop new leadership, and ensure when people step out, there’s other people who can step in. It also doesn’t hurt to ease members into the leadership culture.

This year we’re going to give an actual Annual Report to the members that goes beyond just totals for the year. People aren’t going to volunteer for a black box. If an organization has processes, people have to see where they might be able to pitch in. So you have to be open about things. Any civic organization should be open about its operations. Beware leaders who seem to like hiding things. Sometimes you do have internal matters, but it should be the exception rather than the rule.

Speaking of culture: organizational culture is not an accidental thing. It is deliberate, and one area that can’t be separated from leadership. The leadership of an organization sets the culture. If they don’t, actors (sometimes bad actors) will come in and do that for you.

So what’s the lesson here? NRA has a lot of problems that are frankly familiar to me on a smaller scale. Though my club thankfully didn’t have the massive grifting. But I served on a Board where we were a rubber stamp before a power vacuum changed the dynamics. That power vacuum empowered the Board as a body to step up, and things have gotten better. Not perfect, but moving in the right direction. Like NRA, my club also has an overly large Board. What I’m saying is there can be hope. NRA has a leadership problem. The Board are sycophants, sure, but you’d be surprised how much toxic leadership can hold sway over a Board. From my point of view NRA needs to be rid of two people: Wayne LaPierre and Bill Brewer. Wayne because he’s hapless. I don’t believe Wayne could successfully run a Boy Scout troop. Bill Brewer because he’s correctly identified Wayne as a guy who will believe anything, and pay him anything. I don’t believe Brewer has the best interests of NRA at heart, and if we’re rid of Wayne, but Bill gets to name Wayne’s replacement, we just replaced Ack-Mac with a worse parasite.

The rot often seems to run all the way through, but I can promise you it does not. Toxic leadership is a cancer. The first order of business in enacting a turnaround is to remove it. From there, health will probably improve.

Journey’s Effort to “Save” the NRA

It seems that more of the various groups that have splintered off into pushing some kind of reform at NRA have ultimately come to back Judge Phillip Journey’s efforts to challenge NRA’s legal moves.

I’m not 100% sure that I think his approach is ideal, but I’m also looking at the fact that there don’t appear to any petition candidates at all.

In fact, via voting the best options I can see other than writing someone in (which won’t likely be enough, but it won’t likely hurt) is to bullet vote from the list of candidates for Owen Buz Mills as the only one on the list to drive him to the top of the results. Because even though others might win seats, they care desperately about how “popular” they are and where they come into the rankings. Rank the dissenting board members high and you are still sending a message.

Back to the legal issues at hand, I don’t have any great insight there. On one hand, I tend to believe the bankruptcy legal experts who were watching this case closely not for anything to do with NRA, but the unique circumstances around it. They are pretty pessimistic. On the other hand, I also see that Judge Hale specifically addressed what NRA should expect – a not so subtle nod to stripping leadership & possibly Bill Brewer of power – if they try to refile, which opens the door to refiling. I do think there’s truth that the trial resulted in disclosures that make it more likely the NY AG can push for dissolution. I also think the fact that the federal court did weigh James’s attacks on NRA as a political foe into account when trying to decide if they deserved bankruptcy protection from her office signals to other courts that going in this direction is going to set a very bad precedent.

Either way, it’s about which court you think would give NRA the fairest shake. Neither one makes me comfortable which is why I’m more open to a legal strategy that is simply summed up as: “Whatever Wayne LaPierre, Carolyn ‘Burn the Records’ Meadows, Charles Cotton, and Willes Lee oppose is what I probably support.”

I went ahead and threw a few bucks at the effort. I’m not going to press the readers to do so since I don’t know if there are good answers in any of this, but I think it’s important to share it’s out there.

Ultimately, one reason I’m on board with the effort to try and save the NRA from people like Wayne is because we have a huge resource in our community that NRA has moved away from both tapping as a resource and supporting – gun clubs. Not commercial gun ranges, but non-profit, volunteer-run gun clubs. NRA’s support of clubs has gone downhill in the last 20 years. Part of that is because they were really behind the times in the shift to newer shooting sports that were taking off which reduced the amount that rising club leaders needed to build connections there or learn about resources. But they didn’t manage to connect with these people on any other level when it comes to club support.

As much as NRA has dropped the ball on this, they still have the institutional knowledge (within the volunteer organization as a whole, even if not always on staff) and name recognition to rebuild this resource and start offering more things that are relevant to clubs in need. As much good as I do think some groups are doing on the legal fights, no other group has tried to step into this space. Yet, if no one does, once these ranges are gone, they are gone for good. And that’s forever a loss of a Second Amendment habitat for growing new shooters.

NRA Elections – The Reality

I tried to leave a comment, but it seems WordPress.com is acting up and wouldn’t accept it. Therefore, NRAinDanger writer, I’m responding here and may be able to generate some additional feedback.

“…getting on the ballot by petition is impossible…”

I agree with much of the post, but I very much disagree with this. The reality of it is that if a candidate can’t find the needed signatures of people who can vote, then they can’t make it on the board.

I saw that Frank Tait fell short on signatures largely due to people who said they could vote, but really could not. This isn’t surprising if you know how many people think they are NRA members who really aren’t, and a huge percentage of NRA members probably believe they are entitled to a vote when they really aren’t. And that’s a really important measure for getting actual votes cast, too. It’s a hurdle everyone must overcome, so I don’t really consider it a true roadblock to reform.

This year’s class of board members up is interesting statistically. They have had both the biggest difference between “last winner” and “first loser” in a decade plus of records (3,024 vote difference in 2018) and the 2nd and 3rd smallest differences (just 356 in 2012; only 417 in 2015). Based on my records of tracking organization voter participation, this class is also among the lowest of valid votes cast in the cycles. There aren’t really any Baby Boomer celebrities on the ballot to drive turnout.

Realistically, to get on the board, a petition candidate needs to find new votes. Chatting online largely doesn’t reach the thousands you need to find to convince to bullet vote. If they are already on a forum talking about reforming NRA, chances are they were already voting that way. Because it’s not just about getting reformers on, but also about getting problem people off.

I know it won’t happen, but could you imagine if Carolyn Meadows wasn’t elected by the membership? She’s up this year. Or David Coy or Joel Friedman, named to this committee to move NRA away from its most important functions? Also up this year.

While there is a system to replace all of those people, can you imagine the headache of trying to conduct business where they have to find the replacements and then get them caught up to speed on what is likely a very, very secretive process largely withheld from the Board & members? Hell, I know that the elected members get updates during the election period and fret very much like junior high girls in a popularity contest about how they are placing compared to others. Just make them sweat by boosting – radically – the number of votes just for Owen Buz Mills as the only nominee who joined Journey’s case and you can make a statement even without a petition candidate.

Is it tough to get on the board if not blessed by Wayne? Yes. But someone who can’t get 500-600 signatures of valid voters definitely isn’t going to get the 70,935+ votes that the last winner received in the last election for this board class. Definitely not impossible, though.

UPDATE: I just had an additional thought based on the links auto generated to be most related to this post. Coy and Friedman have, in the last decade, been among those incumbent Nominating Committee board members to lose. Honestly, even getting them out and replacing them with no show board members who would turn down committee assignments and such work might be a help to cause headaches and slow this march to dissolution or irrelevancy that Wayne is setting up. Although, given that 2 of the 5 votes on this committee are board members who are a) up for election, and b) past losers in their election races, I think it’s safe to say that Cotton & Lee are the only votes that matter on that committee. Regardless, more people eventually appointed and it does slow them down.

Quote of the Day

From NRAInDanger:

When a bankruptcy judge who has been on the bench many years, and “seen them all,” says conduct shocks him, you’re hearing it from an expert.

Go read the whole thing.

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.

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