Now that the NRA has decamped from Indianapolis with LaPierre still standing and Oliver North down for the ten-count, let’s try and figure out what really took place. Because I’m sorry to say., but most of the reportage about the big battle at the annual meeting didn’t get it all wrong, but did miss some of the most important points.
On the second day of the confab, a letter from North was read to the membership in which the NRA President informed the faithful that he was going to resign. Later at that same meeting, Wayne-o delivered his standard ‘us’ versus ‘them’ speech (patriots versus gun-grabbers) and didn’t even bother to thank the newly-retired President for his service or time. Because the Democrats haven’t yet decided who is going to run against sleazy Don in the 2020 electoral campaign, he rambled on about Andy Cuomo’s hatred of the NRA.
The big deal got started when The New Yorker magazine published a detailed article by our friend Mike Spies, which went into details about how the organization’s finances were in tatters because of some sweetheart contracts between the boys in Fairfax and their long-time PR agency, Ackerman-McQueen. The title of the piece, ‘Secrecy, Self-Dealing and Greed at the NRA’ set off a media wave which then set off a nasty exchange between Ollie and LaPierre, which ultimately resulted in North announcing that the NRA Board would not sanction another Presidential term, so goodbye.
Two days before the Spies article appeared, The New York Times published what I thought was a much more significant article describing a just-filed lawsuit against Ackerman-McQueen by none other than the NRA! This suit, which you can download here, claimed that the two parties had been negotiating for almost a year, discussions which centered around the behavior and compensation of Oliver North, who has evidently been double-dipping salaries from both the NRA and the PR agency, a clear violation of not-for-profit regulations in New York State (which is where the NRA has been registered since 1871.)
North was hired by the NRA precisely to help the organization recover from the deficit it ran by giving sleazy Don $30 million or more for his 2016 campaign. In fact, the 2016 operating deficit of $45 million was cut to $17 million in 2017, despite the fact that revenues also declined by some $25 mil. You may recall that North ran for Senate against Chuck Robb in 1994. He lost the race but set a single-year record for direct-mail donations of $16 million bucks. He has remained a prodigious fundraiser for various right-wing causes ever since, and no doubt his efforts in this respect are what pushed him into the President’s position of the NRA.
If you read the lawsuit between NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, particularly Section D, you’ll discover that North has, indeed, made good use of his fundraising abilities, largely for himself. It appears that as an Ackerman-McQueen employee, North may have not only oversold the value of his name, but didn’t even deliver the content to NRA-TV that was going to generate more cash both from sponsors and fans.
The boys from Fairfax have made some dumb business decisions over the last several years, chief among them moving from face-to-face to digital training with the accompanying Carry Guard insurance scam. Both of these programs have weakened the organization’s membership base, but anyone who thinks that or hopes that the NRA is now facing Armageddon doesn’t know how to read the tea leaves.
I’ve said it in previous columns but I’ll say it again. The NRA‘s existence reflects the fact that a clear majority of Americans, including non-gun owning Americans, believe that owning a gun for self-defense is more of a benefit than a risk. And it really doesn’t matter that the evidence proves exactly the reverse. Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation figure out a convincing argument in response to this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, we will remain enamored of those little pieces of polymer which fit neatly in the pocket and hold 16 rounds,