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NYT: NRA’s Former Second-in-Command Says NRA has “Turned its Back” on Majority of Gun Owners Who Support Background Checks on all Gun Sales, “Estimates That a Third of Member Dues are now Being Consumed by Legal Fees”

September 3, 2020

In Addition to Ballooning Legal Costs, the NRA’s Former Second in Command Alleges in a New Book that the NRA has Abandoned “Its Roots as an Organization Focused on Gun Safety and Education.”

According to a new report by the New York Times, Josh Powell –– NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s former chief of staff and the NRA’s former “second-in-command” –– will blast the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, and the organization’s lobbying of President Donald Trump after mass shootings in a new tell-all book. He also slammed the NRA for failing to support background checks and red flag laws, both of which are supported by an overwhelming majority of gun owners. 

Key details are as follows: 

  • Powell calls for background checks on all gun sales, and says the NRA has “turned its back” on gun owners who support gun safety: Powell broke with the NRA and called for background checks and red flag laws, saying that the organization has “turned its back on the majority of gun owners who support background checks.” He further criticized the NRA for “repeatedly block[ing] federal studies of gun violence,” fearing their findings. 
  • The NRA “has abandoned its roots,” is allegedly spending “a third of member dues” on “legal fees”: According to the Times, “Mr. Powell says that the N.R.A. has fundamentally lost its way, abandoning ‘its roots as an organization focused on gun safety and education.’ He further estimates in the piece “that a third of member dues are now being consumed by legal fees, and describes a culture where big spending was routine.” 
  • NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre allegedly considered quitting last year and “couldn’t run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life”: Powell describes LaPierre, his former boss, as “as a woefully inept manager,” who could “couldn’t run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life.” Powell further alleges that, according to the Times, the NRA’s troubles were “so pervasive” that LaPierre considered “quitting” last year.
  • The “toxic” NRA “has torn at the very fabric of America”: Powell writes that, “The N.R.A. fueled a toxic debate by appealing to the paranoia and darkest side of our members, in a way that has torn at the very fabric of America.” He adds that LaPierre raised money for the NRA by catering to “the extreme fringe.” 
  • After mass shootings, the NRA “repeatedly persuaded” President Trump to “stand down from efforts to impose gun control measures”: According to Powell’s new book, President Trump “seemed to support imposing some of the toughest new restrictions on guns in decades,” after the Parkland shooting. But, according to the Times, “the president quickly folded after a meeting with Mr. LaPierre and Chris Cox, who was then the N.R.A.’s top lobbyist.” Furthermore, “[t]here was a similar reversal by the president after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in the summer of 2019,” after which “LaPierre told the president ‘the membership would go wild’ if he moved forward with background check legislation.” 

The book, called “Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed and Paranoia within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” is slated to be published on September 8. This Times report follows a previous one on the topic, in which Powell alleged that the NRA “has operated in the red for the past three years, despite annual revenues of roughly $350 million.” That piece further revealed Powell’s allegations that “the waste and dysfunction at the N.R.A. was staggering, costing the organization and its members hundreds of millions of dollars over the years,” and the belief among legal experts that “LaPierre’s removal [is] all but a foregone conclusion.”

This pressure on the NRA comes at a time when it is already mired in immense legal, financial, and internal turmoil. 

  • Legal: Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit seeking to dissolve the NRA for violating New York charities law. On the same day, DC Attorney General Karl Racine sued the NRA for allegedly exerting undue influence over the NRA Foundation. Additionally, the NRA was recently hit with a class action lawsuit, and it was already facing charges by New York State’s Department of Financial Services, and locked in various lawsuits with former business partner Ackerman McQueen. As a result of these legal troubles, the Trace reported allegations that the NRA paid its top lawyer an estimated $54 million in the last two years alone.  
  • Financial: The NRA is $57 million in debt, recently reportedly laid off and furloughed over 200 employees, and in 2019, its revenue from member dues declined by 34% while its “legal, audit, and tax costs” increased by 39%. Additionally, earlier this year, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said that the NRA suffered “about a $100 million hit” in 2018 and 2019, and that for the NRA “to survive,” he took “about $80 million” out of the budget. This follows years of alleged financial mismanagement, during which NRA executive pay has skyrocketed, money has flowed to “unpaid” board members, and the NRA’s own board members and accountants have called into question lavish, legally suspect personal spending by its leadership.
  • Internal: Experts believe that Wayne LaPierre’s removal is “a foregone conclusion” due to the NRA’s legal troubles. Additionally, according to The Guardian, the NRA’s “drop in revenues accelerated in 2019 when several large NRA donors began a drive to oust LaPierre over allegations of mismanagement and self-dealing, and to promote reforms.” These donors have boasted that “$165 million in donations and planned gifts had been withheld.” 

A detailed history of the NRA’s finances and litigation can be found on

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