A group of current and former NRA board members want CEO Wayne LaPierre gone, and they think they may have the man to make it happen: Allen West.
NRA board member Philip Journey joined former board members Bill Dailey and Rockey Marshall in a campaign to draft West to run in the upcoming leadership election. The dissidents, who have been trying to remove LaPierre and reform the NRA since corruption allegations emerged in 2019, hope West can win over the rest of the board. They said the leadership change is necessary to bring the organization back on track as it faces serious legal challenges.
“We need a new leader who will work to resolve the outstanding litigation in New York and the District of Columbia,” Marshall said. “Only then will the NRA be able to effectively serve all members, especially in the crucial upcoming elections, and get the NRA back to serving our members and reaching out to the 7.5 million new gun owners since 2019. We think Allen West is that leader.”
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment.
West said he is “honored” by the call for him to run against LaPierre. He said he is considering the move and consulting with loved ones.
“It is deeply humbling and I am honored that these current and former NRA Board Members would put such trust and confidence in my abilities,” West told The Reload. “I have to pray and consult with my family. I love the NRA and my life has been defined by answering the call to serve, and my oath to the Constitution has no statute of limitations.”
The draft effort comes after New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.) asked the court hearing her corruption suit against the NRA to remove LaPierre and other members of leadership then install two court-appointed overseers to run the organization. She also wants Lapierre to pay restitution to the group for personal expenses he is accused of billing to the non-profit as well as any of the group’s funds he misused or misdirected. While Justice Joel Cohen tossed James’s effort to shut the NRA down as punishment for the corruption charges, he allowed her to pursue the other remedies, which would still significantly impact how the gun-rights group is run.
“LaPierre, together with his direct reports, including Defendants Phillips, Frazer and Powell, instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA,” James said in her most recent complaint. “They overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favored board members, employees and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interests.”
James has claimed the NRA’s reform efforts since 2019 are largely hollow because LaPierre remains in control of the organization despite the long list of inappropriate expenditures he’s accused of making or overseeing. If the dissidents can replace LaPierre with West, it could hinder James’s attempt to wrestle control of the group from its board and officers.
The dissidents said James has made a compelling case for court intervention and warned the NRA needed to do more internally to stave off the more severe penalties she is seeking.
“The verified pleadings in the New York Attorney Generals litigation and evidence thus far questioning the propriety of Wayne Lapierre’s leadership requires the Board of Directors to exercise their fiduciary duty to select a replacement who is able provide the leadership to effectively and properly represent NRA members and protect the Second Amendment in the future,” Dailey said.
“After watching the NRA’s Bankruptcy hearings, reviewing the evidence presented and New York law, I have concluded that the likelihood of the NYAG winning her lawsuit against Wayne La Pierre and the other defendants is very high,” Journey said. “As an NRA member and a member of its Board of Directors, I have a duty to plan for that contingency. I know Col. Allen West will make a great Executive Vice President of the NRA. Col. West is a nationally recognized advocate for the Second Amendment.”
Journey and Marshall have been attempting to reform the NRA for several years. The pair were part of a doomed attempt by a handful of NRA board members to secure a court-appointed examiner to dig into the NRA’s finances during the group’s failed bankruptcy declaration. Marshall also attempted to intervene in the New York case as a board member but was denied by Justice Cohen earlier this year.
The dissidents have had little success in rallying other board members to their cause thus far, with an effort to put Marshall up against LaPierre in last year’s leadership election garnering only two votes. However, LaPierre only got 44 votes from the 76-member board himself. LaPierre, who has cultivated a fiercely loyal following among many of the most active board members, likely missed out on so many votes in large part because many directors did not attend the meeting at all. Absenteeism from the large board has been a continuing problem. Many board members even skipped the emergency meeting over whether to approve LaPierre’s decision to take the group into bankruptcy.
West’s notoriety, coupled with the NRA’s recent financial struggles, could boost the group of disgruntled NRA board members in their latest attempt to unseat LaPierre.
A 2021 financial report obtained by The Reload shows the group’s revenue and spending have been cut in half since 2018. Memberships have also slumped during that time, even as millions of Americans became gun owners for the first time. The gun-rights group has been able to stay in the black but only due to severe cuts to its programs. Administrative legal fees have also ballooned to the point where they now make up 20 percent of the NRA’s overall spending.
West was vocal in his outrage over the corruption allegations against LaPierre when they first surfaced in 2019. He called for an internal investigation and numerous reforms shortly before the group’s board meeting.
“I think one of the key things that we need to have is an internal audit system within the National Rifle Association,” West told The Washington Free Beacon. “I think it’s very important that the board reassert more of its control and power based upon the bylaws so that we don’t have any of these, you know, surprises that pop up.”
After the board meeting, he accused NRA leadership of corruption and called for Wayne LaPierre to resign.
“I do not support Wayne LaPierre continuing as the EVP/CEO of the NRA,” he said at the time. “The vote in Indianapolis was by acclamation, not roll call vote. There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. My duty and responsibility is to the Members of the National Rifle Association, and my oath, since July 31, 1982, has been to the Constitution of the United States, not to any political party, person, or cabal.”
Then-NRA president Carolyn Meadows, first vice president Charles Cotton, and second vice president Willes Lee denied West’s accusations in a joint statement.
“It is unfortunate that certain board members have resorted to making false and misleading public statements about proceedings of the NRA board of directors,” the joint statement said.
Meadows’s term as president has since ended. Cotton has now taken her place, and Lee has moved up first vice president. West later said he wanted new officers.
“The NRA needs new leadership,” he told the Free Beacon at the time.
By 2021 he quietly resigned from the NRA board during his unsuccessful primary campaign against Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R.).
Journey said he believes West is up for the task of reforming and rebuilding the organization.
“He has extensive political experience and a record of speaking out on the NRA Board of Directors for the reform and the restoration of the National Rifle Association,” he said.
The NRA board will meet on May 30th in Houston, Texas, after the group holds its first annual meeting in three years. Board members will decide on the organization’s leadership during the session.
UPDATE 5-5-2022 7:10 PM Eastern: This piece has been updated with comment from Allen West.