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Is Anyone Running NRA?

Chris Cox is suspended. I thought he was hired by the Board, so who is suspending him?

The palace intrigue at the National Rifle Association deepened on Thursday as the gun group suspended its second-in-command and top lobbyist, accusing him of complicity in the recent failed coup against its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre.

This isn’t a good thing to be happening out in the New York Times. Up until now ILA seemed relatively un-embroiled in the struggle with Ackerman-McQueen.

We’re going to pay a price for this, without a doubt.


John Richardson has the latest.

I’m Hearing the Right Things

NRA is commenting on the Ack-Mac terminating NRA as a client:

Andrew Arulanandam, managing director of NRA Public Affairs, added in his own statement that changes are coming to the NRA’s communications strategy. “The NRA is eager to return the focus of its messaging to our core mission, the Second Amendment and our steadfast fight to protect America’s constitutional freedoms,” he said. 

Whatever changes are coming to the NRA, they do not appear to include a retreat from politics. “We have an opportunity to elevate our brand, communicate with a broader community of gun owners, and press the advantage in the upcoming 2020 elections,” Arulanandam said.

They have to do this. Ack-Mac’s messaging threw NRA in wholly with the right. Some were pointing out the Brewer is a big Dem donor. Maybe they are viewing that as a feature and not a bug. At some point the Dems are going to be back in power. Ack-Mac’s messaging has completely alienated moderate and left-of-center gun owners, and pro-gun Democrats are a critically endangered species, nearing total extinction. This absolutely has to be reversed.

It’s increasingly looking to me like the Brewer firm are Ack-Mac’s replacement. I care about results. If I see good results; if NRA does indeed return to it’s core mission and jettisons the Angry Dana strategy, I don’t really care if the CEO of the firm donates to Dems. I don’t vet all my vendors for ideological purity, and I don’t expect NRA to do so either. What matters are results.

Ack-Mac Fires NRA as a Client

John Richardson has the story. Of course, this could also be exactly what NRA wanted, and Ack-Mac is just bending to the pressure and trying to spin this in public to maintain the narrative that they are the real victim here, if only for the sake of not scaring off their other clients.

I doubt either party really wants to take this to court, and have it become public, because I doubt either party will come out looking good. I expect this matter to settle.

Ack-Mac Sues NRA

Counterclaim for $50MM filed. Haven’t seen the complaint yet. It should be interesting.

Second Ack-Mac Suit Filed

This time over the leaks. I’m not surprised by that. Most contracts are going to have non-disclosure agreements within them. But I suspect the end of the relationship with NRA will mean the end of Ackerman-McQueen. Or at the least, they’ll go back to being a small firm serving Oklahoma City. Have you ever seen their Glassdoor Reviews? Not great. One comment notes:

There have been a growing number of layoffs, due to not winning any major new clients, so irrationality, desperation is setting in – it may just be karma.

Very unprofessional at times and disrespectful to employees. AM puts power over people and rules by fear while successful companies put power under their employees and rules by encouragement. The funny thing is, I’m not making this up. It’s evident in that the company is losing clients left and right and is HEAVILY dependent on one client. If we lost that one client, AM would nearly collapse.

Now, I take bad Glassdoor reviews with a grain of salt, because unhappy employees are going to be the ones leaving reviews. But I do think patterns are useful. If everyone complains about the same things, it’s probably happening.

But note the last line. I suspect that is now what’s happening. I know some people are annoyed at my focus on Ack-Mac, but right now I view booting them as an achievable victory. The Board has signaled they are with Wayne, for now. There’s nothing that can be done there in the short term. I also don’t trust the people gunning for Wayne right now. There are no good guys here, so I am holding out for at least throwing one of the bad guys in this bad drama overboard.

UPDATE: Complaint can be found here.

Letter from NRA Past Presidents

John Richardson has it. Ack-Mac is going away, right guys? We’re done paying for crappy YouTube videos no one watches, right? Note, from the letter:

The vast majority of the travel in question involved donor outreach, fundraising, and stakeholder engagement. As an example, The Wall Street Journal reported that a trip to Italy was “tied to a 2015 documentary feature on the Italian gun maker posted on NRATV.” Beretta, as you may know, is a major supporter of the NRA and our Second Amendment.

How many people watched the video? I can’t find it, but how many views did it get? I only found one video on location in Italy, and it has 1052 views.

Nice video, but how much money went out for each of those views? I probably don’t even want to know.

UPDATE: Just for the record, I’m not buying the smokescreen that everything is hunky dory.

Interesting Article in Non-Profit Quarterly

From the story:

In the NRA’s story, we can see reflections of some of the patterns exhibited at the Wounded Warrior Project. Success, public support, and leadership excesses offended donors and created a backlash that eventually ended in a nearly clean sweep of leadership, but not before it suffered deep and long-lasting damage to its donor base. Like Wounded Warrior, the NRA is conducting an internal investigation and trying to offload responsibility for the scandal onto what it characterizes as organizational “haters.”

There does seem to be a parallel, except for the Board’s unwillingness to jettison Wayne. Someone asked in the comments what the proper means of redress was, which I think is a fair question.

Really, you need to win elections. When you try to upend the status quo and fail, in an organization like NRA, you need to put people on the Board who back your position. For me that goes back to an earlier post I did talking about how NRA needs a sensible reform movement.

Winning elections is hard, and NRA’s Board is huge. But it’s not impossible to win an election by petition, especially if the membership is angry and wants change, and the alternative is palatable.

From my point of view, the current backlash against Wayne looks to be instigated because he stopped toeing the line vis-a-vis NRA’s PR firm. I will readily concede that probably happened because the NRA ran out of Danegeld, and not because Wayne suddenly had a crisis of conscience.

Maybe that’s all carefully orchestrated kabuki theather, and I’m a dupe. I’m sure many of you believe that. But that’s how it looks to me. I think the focus on payments to Brewer’s firm is because he’s sucking up money that could be used to buy more shitty YouTube videos no one watches. Is he sucking up too much money? I’m open to the answer being “yes.”

I would follow a movement to reform NRA that distanced itself from North and a lot of these other players I don’t trust. I don’t know Allen West. I have met Tim Knight before, and he seemed like a straight player. But we need more of that.

The Key Questions

So it turns out that people who have hated NRA and/or Wayne LaPierre for years… you might want to sit down for this, as it’s a shocking revelation… still hate NRA and Wayne LaPierre. So if I seem a little tired of this, that’s why.

There are no good guys in any of this, I’m increasingly convinced. But here’s the key issues as I see it:

  • Why did Pete Brownell step down and make way for Ollie North? North wasn’t in line for President.
  • What was North’s angle in all of this? The problem in this whole thing is I don’t trust any of the players.
  • Was Ack-Mac trying to peddle influence on the Board to shore up its position for the the post-Wayne era, which is coming soon (he’s 70, half a decade past typical retirement age) whether or not the Board’s circled wagons succeed in fending off the Indians.
  • Why did Wayne’s expenses go through Ackerman-McQueen instead of NRA?
  • Why are Bill Brewer’s legal fees so high? I’ve had attorney friends tell me the fees do indeed look high, but not out of the realm of possibility for handling several pieces of complex federal litigation.

I agree NRA needs to hire an independent auditor to get to the bottom of some of these questions. But understand that if they do, none of us are ever going to see the results. Because the purpose of an external auditor is to tell you what you’re doing wrong off-the-record before a real auditor shows up and it counts.

I’m a lot less concerned about the travel and clothes, other than if they went through the PR firm to conceal them from auditing.

But it’s pretty clear the Board isn’t prepared to remove Wayne, so those wanting to depose him have more work to do. There’s a way to handle these things, and leaking shit to our enemies isn’t one of them. This is not new. Anyone who’s been following the Trace’s (admittedly good) journalism on this issue for any time knows someone or someones have been leaking shit to them for a while. Who? And Why?

I’d be a lot more willing to join a movement to push Wayne along to retirement if I could be convinced that the movement is realistic, focused on improving NRA, and isn’t just settling old scores and trying to drive NRA to a disastrous hard-line position.

I Will Not Help Ack-Mac Destroy NRA

A lot of people are sending me this letter from Allan West. Carolyn Meadows has responded to it:

It is unfortunate that certain board members have resorted to making false and misleading public statements about proceedings of the NRA board of directors. As those board members know, we are not at liberty to discuss the particulars of the board of directors meeting that occurred in executive session on April 29. However, every board member was afforded the opportunity to speak openly about any issues of concern to them. To suggest otherwise is dishonorable.

During the meeting in question, the board had a healthy discussion where the issues that are being reported upon now were vetted and discussed. Beyond that, every board member was invited to attend committee meetings where legal, financial, regulatory, and business issues are thoroughly addressed. The NRA has an office of the general counsel, and separate independent outside counsel to represent the board of directors. In sum, there is no excuse for any board member to claim they are unaware of legal and business concerns being addressed by this Association.

It shocks the conscience to read that certain board members have apparently not kept themselves updated, informed and active on matters that are of interest to our 5 million members. They have an open invitation to get more actively involved — and to join the conversation in an appropriate way, as is provided for in our Bylaws.

In closing, it occurs to us that board members ‘voicing’ concern may have been part of a failed attempt to oust Wayne LaPierre as CEO and Executive Vice President of the NRA prior to the board meeting in Indianapolis. In fact, we were all warned that a scorched earth campaign would ensure unless Wayne moved to withdraw the NRA’s lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen and walked away from the NRA. Wayne chose the principled path — and did neither. He will continue to press for full transparency from all vendors, even the ones that employ Col. North and others.

Fact — when the board met, Wayne was unanimously voted to continue his leadership role of the Association. Anyone could have run against him, or any one of us for that matter or even called for a roll call vote. They chose not to do so.

We should end this petty bickering immediately. Now is the time for the NRA to return to its core mission: representing our members and defending the conditional freedoms of America.

Emphasis is mine. Wayne cheerleading aside, it’s been apparent to me that this is a follow through on that threat, and while I think Wayne should have retired after the 2016 election, I don’t know that Wayne stepping aside now wouldn’t intensify the current crisis or start a whole new one on top of it. If NRA is committed to ridding itself of Ack-Mac, right now that is enough for me. It’s apparent to me that the parasite is willing to kill the host if it’s going to be excised.

I’m no great fan of Wayne’s, and I think he’s got a lot to answer for, but if it’s Wayne or Ack-Mac, I know which side I’m taking.

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