CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA — Wayne LaPierre remains in control of the National Rifle Association.
The longtime head of the nation’s largest gun-rights group was re-elected to be executive vice president and chief executive officer despite being accused of diverting millions of dollars of the group’s funds to his own lavish personal expenses. The decision was not without controversy, though. For the first time in years, an alternative was nominated to run against LaPierre.
LaPierre received 44 votes, while former board member Rocky Marshall received two votes. Another three board members abstained from voting. The NRA has 76 board members, which means 27 did not enter a recorded vote, likely because they did not attend the board meeting.
The Reload attended the meeting but, despite being allowed to sit in on the earlier members’ meeting, was not allowed inside the board meeting because it was closed to press. The Reload was the only press in attendance at the event. Multiple NRA members and board members shared details of the meeting with The Reload as it occurred and after it was over. Frank Tait, a member who has advocated for the removal of LaPierre and was allowed inside, also posted an accounting of what took place in his personal publication.
A post-dated confidential document detailing the single slate of nominees for executive positions was slid under the door of board members the night before the meeting took place, according to multiple sources. That slate was disrupted at the board meeting when board member Philip Journey, who had organized an attempt to intervene in the group’s failed bankruptcy against leadership’s wishes, nominated an alternative to run against LaPierre. Journey picked Marshall who is currently attempting to intervene in the case against the NRA to have LaPierre and other members of leadership removed. Journey said leadership has failed to correct the issues at the heart of New York’s corruption suit against the organization, which threatens to shut it down.
“The management has to change,” Journey told The Reload. “It just has to change. There’s no other answer because my repeated attempts and suggestions or observation on how we can improve and come into greater compliance are all rebuffed. Universally rebuffed.”
Other board members were displeased with the protest vote. Member Jay Printz reportedly called the vote “an exercise in mental masturbation.”
Printz did not respond to a request for comment.
LaPierre described his re-election as the result of the NRA “standing tall in the face of unprecedented attacks on our Association and constitutional freedoms.” He said the group is “focused and energized” despite a lack of membership growth over the past eight years and a drop of tens of millions in revenue over the past several years.
“I am honored by the trust placed in me by the NRA Board of Directors and the millions of patriots they represent,” he said in a statement. “Together, we will continue to confront our adversaries, and fight for our freedoms and values. We are resolute in our mission as America’s greatest defender of constitutional freedom.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.), who is asking a court to dissolve the NRA in her corruption suit, said the board election results were further evidence the group is not serious about reforming itself.
“The NRA’s decision to re-elect Wayne LaPierre and other top leaders yesterday despite the detailed evidence of repeated fraud and self-dealing we have laid out in our lawsuit and during the bankruptcy trial underscores that board governance is broken and that the rot runs deep at the NRA. For years, Mr. LaPierre and his lieutenants used the NRA and its donors as a breeding ground for personal gain and to live a lavish lifestyle, which is why they must be removed.”
NRA leadership maintained during the meeting that James is politically motivated. Charles Cotton, who was elected president at the meeting, pointed to James’ comments while running for AG where she labeled the group a “terrorist organization” and said she was running to “take down” the NRA. Cotton and LaPierre assured the 150-or-so members who showed up for the members’ meeting that the case against the group was built on lies.
They repeated the NRA’s long-running defense that the group did have issues–with LaPierre himself admitting in tax filings he took about $400,000 in excess personal benefits–for a time. However, leadership and the board addressed the financial mismanagement by firing former top contractor Ackerman Mcqueen, former Chief of Staff Josh Powell, former Treasurer Wilson “Woody” Philips, and former top lobbyist Chris Cox. Then, they said, the group undertook a series of reforms to ensure the problems would not repeat.
“Under the direction of Wayne LaPierre, the NRA is strong and secure – well-positioned to chart its course for the future,” Cotton said in a statement.
But with LaPierre, who faces the bulk of the accusations of financial impropriety, still in control of the organization, both internal NRA critics and James remain unconvinced by the argument.
“Our fight for transparency and accountability will continue because no one is above the law,” James said.