The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA:
Wayne’s inability to constrain his own impulses extended to his management style. He was grossly outmaneuvered by the vendors that the National Rifle Association paid. One of the prime examples of this is InfoCision, the company the NRA uses for telemarketing and handling incoming calls from its members. InfoCision is headed by the Taylor family, which between 1996 and 2010 contributed more than $330,000 to various Republican causes, then suddenly stopped doing so. The telemarketing company is heavily reliant on the NRA for its business: over the past few years, the gun rights group has made up more of InfoCision’s nonprofit business than all its other clients combined.
InfoCision has a sweetheart deal, according to public filings and required financial disclosures. Its extraordinary contract with the NRA includes a provision: if InfoCision acquires a new member or reactivates a lapsed donor for the gun rights group, it gets to keep 100 percent of the over-the-phone credit card payments ostensibly made to the NRA. The company gets paid twice: first, to fundraise; and second, with a cut of the amount fundraised. The result of the contract is that InfoCision is paid significantly more than it actually brings in.
From 2008 to 2018, InfoCision raised $113.5 million for the NRA. Of that, it kept a cut of $64.3 million, or 56.6 percent— sort of like a commission. On top of that, the NRA paid InfoCision a whopping $210 million over that same time period for its services. The bottom line is that the NRA paid over $200 million so that it could raise less than $50 million.
The NRA’s annual spending on the vendor has been increasing. In its most recent filing with the IRS, for the year 2018, the NRA said that InfoCision was its second-largest contractor, which it directly paid $25.7 million.
Regulatory filings by InfoCision also reveal how the NRA fundraised during the Obama era. NRA-approved fundraising scripts were filed with the state of Alaska in 2012 and give a window into the messaging. The telemarketer would ideally open a conversation with a prospective donor with a shout-out: “I’m calling today for our Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre. Wayne asked me to call our most loyal supporters like you.”
The potential donor would then be asked which of a list of concerns would be most alarming: a U.N. agreement to “force gun registration,” Hillary Clinton supposedly seeking a gun treaty at the U.N., or the Obama administration “endorsing new gun bans.” The telemarketer was instructed to ask for money after hearing the prospective NRA donor vent.
If the phone call recipient asked about what percentage of their contribution would go to the NRA, the telemarketer was apparently instructed to lie—while the contract with the NRA dictates that InfoCision gets a percentage of the contribution, the telemarketer’s script says that InfoCision gets a fixed fee regardless of contributions.
If the potential donor agreed to give, InfoCision then would shamelessly upsell by asking them to “support our troops” by sponsoring an NRA membership for a military service member, for $25 more. “It’s a great way to say THANKS to those that deserve it most!” It’s unclear whether money was actually segregated for this purpose.
The NRA’s telemarketing strategy and its deal with InfoCision add up to a terribly inefficient way to raise money. Often half of each dollar raised gets paid to the vendor. But it is an effective way to increase the National Rifle Association’s claimed membership count.
From Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA by Tim Mak with permission from Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Tim Mak