The NRA hit yet another roadblock this week when it was forced to cancel its Annual Meeting.
The announcement came just a week before tens of thousands of NRA members were set to descend on Houston, Texas, to attend the 150th-anniversary meeting. It came after concerns started to mount over the surge of Covid cases in the state. And it’s bad news for the group’s finances.
The Annual Meeting is the biggest fundraising event of the year for the NRA. It had to cancel last year’s event. Now this year’s is down the drain, too, after it had already booked the biggest convention center in Houston and planned the whole event.
So, the group is not only missing out on the membership and merchandise sales it would have had, but it will likely take a substantial hit for the last-minute cancelations.
That’s the kind of financial hit it can’t really afford either. Leaked financial documents show the NRA’s income cratered in 2020 while its legal expenses skyrocketed. After breaking ties with outside marketing firm Ackerman McQueen in 2019, the group has essentially moved the $40 million it was spending on them into the accounts of Brewer Attorneys.
The NRA has spent over $25 million in legal fees each year since 2018. It hit that $40 million mark in 2020. And It has already spent over $22 million this year, mostly on the failed bankruptcy gambit Brewer masterminded.
Only massive spending cuts in other areas including the gun-safety training division put the group back in the black in 2020. More may be coming to keep it there in 2021.
The cost is not the only problem with the cancelation. The way it happened is a bad sign too. It wasn’t until after big gun companies started dropping out of the event that the NRA finally canceled.
Late last week, the Daily Beast reported that most major gun makers were baking out of the event over Covid. Benelli confirmed that to me. The Beast report went a step further and said many companies had been privately pressuring the NRA to cancel the whole thing.
Sources inside the NRA and the industry told me this week that was true. And that it had been going on for several weeks. And many people in the industry eventually decided to walk.
That’s a bad sign for the group’s influence. The ongoing legal fight over accusations that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and other executives diverted members’ money to lavish personal expenses may have lowered the bar for when gun companies are willing to go against the group’s wishes. There has been some speculation that the backouts were more about opposition to LaPierre than concerns over Covid.
I don’t think that’s true. If it were, the companies wouldn’t have signed up to sponsor in the first place. Instead, the controversy and continued legal action against the group’s leadership made it easier for these companies to back out when they became concerned about the rise in Covid cases. Whether the NRA wanted them to or not.