A new report by the New York Times’ Danny Hakim pulls the curtain back even further on the NRA’s questionable financial transactions and apparent self-dealing.
According to a previously unreported letter from former NRA President Oliver North to the NRA’s Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer and NRA Chairman of the Audit Committee, Charles Cotton, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre helped negotiate North’s $1 million contract with public relations firm Ackerman McQueen. Last month, the NRA filed suit against Ackerman McQueen, claiming that the firm was refusing to provide the full details of its contract with North. “NRA officials have said Mr. North was not supposed to work directly for the group’s contractor, because of the potential for conflicts of interest,” according to the New York Times.
The New York Times also reports that since 2010, the NRA, itself a 501(c)(4), has received cash transfers of at least $206 million from the NRA Foundation, a public charity, and is being kept afloat financially from those funds. Reportedly, a New York Attorney General’s investigation is looking at whether any of those funds were used for political activity, in violation of the law.
In his letter to Frazer and Cotton, North says that (emphasis added):
“As you are aware, my contract and work with Ackerman McQueen on NRATV is well known at the NRA. Wayne knew about my contract from its inception, because it was his idea that I leave my job at Fox News, become President of NRA, and enter into a contract with Ackerman McQueen to work on NRATV. Wayne helped negotiate the contract. I have understood at all times, the contract was approved by the NRA because Wayne was instrumental in creating it, and that it was in the NRA’s best interest.”
Following an Audit Committee resolution approving his Ackerman McQueen contract that he said was “presumably” approved by LaPierre and NRA outside lawyer William Brewer, North wrote that he “voluntarily reduced my salary to save the NRA money.”
“Because of the NRA’s difficult financial situation I am spending much more time on the road raising money and membership for the NRA than originally anticipated. This, of course, is being done with the full blessing of Wayne and the Board, but it also means that I am less available for NRATV. This shift is consistent with the reduction in resources devoted to NRATV.”
Other key points from Hakim’s reporting:
“A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the powerful lobbying group has increasingly relied on cash infusions and other transactions involving its affiliated foundation — at least $206 million worth since 2010. The role of the foundation is among the issues being examined in a new investigation into the N.R.A.’s tax-exempt status by the New York attorney general, Letitia James.”
“Ackerman has been reaping $40 million a year, even though its signature product, the online streaming service NRATV, has minuscule web traffic… A review of data from Comscore, which tracks web traffic, suggests why that might be: The NRATV site had just 49,000 unique visitors in January, and less traffic in March than Oklahoman.com, the website of Ackerman’s hometown newspaper.”
The article also reflects that the NRA and some of its vendors have denied and/or disputed these allegations and whether they reflect improprieties.
“NRA officials said they had followed appropriate accounting rules, and that transfers reflected the foundation’s evolution,” according to the New York Times. “As the foundation has grown over the years, so has its use of N.R.A. office space, supplies and staff,” Christie Majors, the NRA foundation’s finance director, said in a statement to the New York Times.