LaPierre out at National Rifle Association
No one has been more the personification of the National Rifle Association (NRA) than Wayne LaPierre. He joined the NRA in 1978 as a legislative aide. He became director in 1986 and vice president and chief executive officer in 1991.
The NRA president’s title has been more or less honorary – serving as a high visibility spokesperson. Among the most notable NRA presidents was actor Charlton Heston. He famously held up a rifle and dared anyone to take it from his “cold dead hands.”
Former White House official Oliver North served as president of the NRA for six months, from September of 2018 to April of 2019. His resignation was the result of a “power struggle” with LaPierre.
LaPierre insisted on being the face and the voice of the NRA, especially since the death of Heston. It was one of the issues for North. Earlier, the NRA hired former CPAC President David Keene as its president. Keene was considered to be a very effective and persuasive communicator. LaPierre never allowed Keene to be out front – which was a bad move for the image and reputation of the NRA.
As a Second Amendment advocacy organization, the NRA is bound to be controversial – especially with the rise of an anti-gun lobby and the number of mass shootings. LaPierre autocratic style made the NRA more controversial than necessary. That was due to his extreme rhetoric and a number of personal scandals.
Anti-gun advocates saw the NRA as a powerful lobby that used political donations to “persuade” legislators. It was never the money that gave the NRA so much clout in Washington. It was the huge membership and pro-NRA voters in virtually every congressional district. Political donations tend to go in support of candidates and incumbents already predisposed to the donor’s issue. It is the voters who elect them.
While the NRA was considered a conservative Republican lobbying group, LaPierre’s policy was to support Republicans and Democrats who supported NRA positions. LaPierre’s support for Democrat incumbents over Republican pro-gun candidates drew occasional criticism from the GOP.
In more recent years, the political power of the NRA declined – along with donations and membership. Much of that was attributed to LaPierre’s autocratic and opulent lifestyle at the expense of the organization.
LaPierre has been accused of spending NRA funds on personal expenses, including personal travel on private jets, family trips, lavish dinners and hotel accommodations, luxury items and expensive clothing. The misuse of funds and policy differences led to North attempting to oust LaPierre from his position in the NRA. When that failed, North resigned.
New York Attorney General Latitia James filed a suit against the NRA to shut it down for alleged violations of state not-for-profit tax law – claiming the misuse of millions of dollars of NRA money. LaPierre resigned on the eve of that case going to trial. A co-defendant, Joshua Powell, settled his case by pleading guilty and paying a $100,000 fine.
LaPierre was said to have resigned due to poor health. Neither he nor his attorney would reveal what the health issues were, and none were obvious at this time. It is more likely that the NRA Board could no longer tolerate the credible allegations of financial misconduct and the significant decline in NRA membership and contributions.
Whatever the reasons, LaPierre’s departure from the NRA is a long overdue good thing.
So, there ‘tis.