Another critic of National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre is being pushed out of the organization.
Judge Philip Journey, who has been at the center of several efforts to remove current NRA leadership, has not been renominated to appear on the ballot for next year’s board election. That makes his road back onto the board far more difficult.
“As an incumbent Director your name was submitted to the NRA Nominating Committee which met on August 27, 2022,” NRA Secretary John Frazer said in a letter to Journey on Monday. “I regret to inform you that you were not renominated.”
The move is the latest in a long-running internal fight between LaPierre supporters and detractors at the NRA. After it was revealed that LaPierre and other members of leadership systematically diverted millions of dollars in the non-profit’s funding towards lavish personal expenses, including private flights and trips to exotic locations, the gun-rights group has endured a power struggle that has seen a dozen board members, former president Oliver North, and former top lobbyist Chis Cox pushed out. Journey’s likely departure is also another example of LaPierre’s staying power and continued control of the organization.
The decision not to renominate Journey comes after he was involved in an effort to have an outside examiner appointed to look through the NRA’s finances during the group’s failed attempt to declare bankruptcy last year. He is the second member, after Rocky Marshall, the board has declined to renominate after they signed on to the examiner motion. Journey was also the one to nominate the only two challengers to LaPierre’s CEO role in the past several decades. However, both failed, with challenger Allen West receiving just one vote against LaPierre’s 54 earlier this year.
Journey has also been a vocal critic of the organization’s operations, repeatedly sounding the alarm about how much money it was spending on outside lawyers seeking to maintain LaPierre’s control of the organization rather than enacting sweeping internal reforms. The NRA is facing an ongoing lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.), who has referred to the group as a “terrorist organization,” that threatens to levy severe fines and potential restructuring in response to the allegations of financial impropriety. Administrative legal fees ballooned to over $48 million in 2021, making it the largest single line item expense in the organization’s budget, according to the NRA’s most recent financial report.
At the same time, revenue at the NRA has declined precipitously since 2018, falling by $130 million. Membership has also dropped to a four-year low, according to an internal report published by The Reload earlier this year. Attendance at the NRA’s annual meeting and voting in its board elections have also fallen, both of which have reached the lowest levels since 2006. Though the group still far outpaces the membership of other gun-related advocacy groups and has managed to bring its finances back into the black through severe spending cuts.
The NRA’s struggles have come at one of the worst possible times for gun-rights advocates. The Uvalde school massacre motivated Senate Republicans to join on to a gun-control bill and pass it this summer over the objections of the NRA. The law instituted the first new federal restrictions on gun ownership in decades. A few weeks later, the House of Representatives passed the first “assault weapons” ban in a generation.
The group has found far more success in the courts during the same time, though. Its state affiliate, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, won a Supreme Court case against New York’s restrictive gun-carry law setting a significant new precedent for how federal courts will judge gun laws in the future.
However, Journey and other reformers believe the NRA could accomplish more without the scandals hanging over its head. He also accused the Nominating Committee of being corrupt and said he might run despite not being nominated.
“I am proud to announce that I am not tainted again by selection by the NRA Nominating Committee for the ballot of the 2023 NRA Board of Directors election,” Journey told The Reload. “While I am still considering nomination by petition, I have no illusions about the fairness of that election.”
The NRA’s board members are picked by an election of the group’s voting members. Those generally include only lifetime members and those who’ve held a membership for five consecutive years. In the 2022 elections, that amounted to about half of the total membership. The NRA mails voting members ballots.
To appear on a ballot, anyone running for the board either has to get approval from the board’s nominating committee or gather enough signatures to get on by petition. The vast majority of the 76 board members make it on the ballot through the nominating committee. Only a handful of members at any given time make it on through the petition process.
Wayne LaPierre has been accused of inappropriately spending NRA money to secretly campaign for board candidates in previous elections. The podcast Gangster Capitalism featured former women state coordinator for the NRA Members’ Councils of California, Dezarae Payne, describing an alleged scheme to use NRA money to lobby members on which way to vote and also effectively hire campaign boosters for the 76th member seat, which is decided through votes of those attending the NRA Annual Meeting each year.
The NRA said its election process is open and transparent, despite claims to the contrary.
“The process by which members of the Board are nominated and elected is set forth in the Association’s bylaws,” Lars Dalseid, a spokesperson for the group, told The Reload. “Ultimately, it is the NRA members who elect the board. This process is available for all to examine and transparently administered. Most importantly, it results in the election of volunteers who proudly represent the NRA’s approximately five million members.”
Frazer’s letter to Journey also notes the nominating committee considered 48 people for the 30 available spots on the ballot. That means Journey was among 18 other candidates who were not nominated, though it is not clear how many other current board members the committee decided not to renominate.
Journey doubled down, claiming the board elections do not present a level playing field.
“With a decades-long history of using Association assets to determine the election outcome, it is all but predetermined,” he said.
Frazer’s letter also notes petitions to be included on the ballot are due by October 11th. Ballots for the NRA board election will be included in the NRA’s various magazines later this year.