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Wayne LaPierre’s Nonprofit, NRA: Greed, Guns, Thoughts and Prayers

June 1, 2022

Wayne LaPierre is the Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is a nonprofit. (That’s right: the NRA is a nonprofit: EIN: 53-0116130.)

According to the NRA’s 2020 tax filing, LaPierre was paid a whopping $1.6M in total compensation. Thirteen other NRA officers/employees made an additional $5.4M in total compensation from this nonprofit. Board director Marion Hammer drew six figures ($259K) for working 5hrs/wk as a consultant.

LaPierre was hired as an NRA state-level lobbyist in 1978 and promoted to head of state-level lobbying in 1979. By 1991, LaPierre was NRA EVP.

As for the lobbying and political activity of LaPierre’s NRA: The nonprofit operates its own “Institute for Legislative Action,” not a separate entity but allowable by law as “some” lobbying. Also associated with the NRA is the NRA Political Victory Fund, a political action committee (PAC) (see here for NRA PAC FEC filings.) It is not tax-exempt, nor is yet another organization, the NRA Victory Fund, an NRA-associated super PAC. (The NRA’s 2017 tax filing lists a number of additional nonprofits associated with NRA, for those who care to dig deeper.)

According to the NRA’ s 2020 tax form, $455K of LaPierre’s compensation was “bonus and incentive compensation” approved by its board of directors.

LaPierre’s NRA is all in for “pro-gun.” The NRA grades political candidates based upon the degree to which that candidate puts guns first, above all else. People do not come first under LaPierre’s NRA. Guns do. The guns always win. All else is labeled as “restrictive” and will count against the NRA’s rating of that candidate:

Under LaPierre’s NRA, a school shooter’s access to firearms is sacred and should not be questioned.

An NRA-funded politician risks no letter-grade detriment for saying mental health is the issue, or for decrying unsecured school doors, or for offering an abundance of post-shooting thoughts and prayers. Why, let’s even throw more guns into the mix by insisting that teachers should be packing heat. But don’t follow any course of action that would prevent a school shooter from gaining access to the gun.

Thoughts and prayers till next time– and further loosening of gun laws wherever possible.

At the 2022 NRA convention, comedian Jason Selvig mocked a clueless LaPierre for his thoughts and prayers:

On Monday, May 30, 2022, LaPierre was reelected as NRA EVP by NRA’s board– a board whose members risk retaliation if they question LaPierre.

That’s less than one week after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

School shooting to start the week in Texas; NRA annual meeting to close out the week in Texas.

Nothing is complimentary about this brief, May 30, 2022, NBC News report of LaPierre’s reelection. Every paragraph is an indictment of both organization and leader:

The National Rifle Association’s board of directors voted Monday to re-elect longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre, signaling that the gun rights group isn’t changing direction despite a rise in mass shootings and its own internal turmoil. 

LaPierre has been in charge of the NRA’s day-to-day operations since 1991 and has shaped its no-compromise approach to lobbying against gun control, even after New York’s attorney general accused him of using the group as his “personal piggy bank.” 

The NRA said in a statement that the vote was “almost unanimous,” as a rival candidate, former Republican congressman Allen West, received support from only one board member. 

The vote occurred at the end of the NRA’s annual meeting in Houston, 300 miles east of Uvalde, where last week an 18-year-old gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School. 

Lapierre reelected to lead the NRA, and that despite LaPierre, his wife, and other NRA officials using the nonprofit to support their lifestyles to an even richer degree. Apparently LaPierre’s $1.6M a year is not enough. Too, in its own words, the NRA just isn’t sure if some of these folks plan on paying the money back. But then, the NRA has no grading system for the honesty and integrity of its leadership. No grade, no problem, eh?

Even still, some NRA leadership did question LaPierre and faced retaliation.

Press release from the New York Attorney General’s Office, December 10, 2021:

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today released the following statement after oral arguments concluded over a second round of motions brought forward by the National Rifle Association (NRA), Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer as they sought to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Attorney General James against the organization last summer:

“The NRA is fraught with fraud, abuse, and illegality that has permeated the organization — this is why we filed our lawsuit to remove senior leadership and dissolve the organization last year. For more than a year now, the NRA has utilized one tactic after another to delay accountability, but each time the courts have rejected these maneuvers. This latest, and second, effort to dismiss our lawsuit is a blatant attempt to avoid transparency and accountability, and we are hopeful that the court will reject it like the last one. The NRA does not get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions. No one is above the law, not even one of the most powerful organizations in the country.”

Last August, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the NRA and four of the organization’s current or former top executives for failing to manage the NRA’s funds; failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, as well as the NRA’s own bylaws and policies; and contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years. The suit was filed against the NRA as a whole, as well as LaPierre, Frazer, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, and former Chief of Staff and Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell.

The NRA then moved to dismiss Attorney General James’ complaint in its entirety, stay the action, and change the venue to an Albany court. This past January, the New York County State Supreme Court ruled that the case be permitted to continue in a Manhattan court, and not be moved to an Albany court or dismissed outright.

Days before that ruling, in an effort to avoid accountability altogether, the NRA filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy even though the organization still claimed to have healthy financial reserves. Over the course of the bankruptcy trial, LaPierre and other senior leaders admitted that the bankruptcy was simply a way of avoiding New York’s enforcement action, yet still stated that they believed that New York courts and judges could be trusted to fairly and impartially oversee the case. In May, a federal bankruptcy court in Texas rejected the organization’s claims of bankruptcy after the NRA sought to reorganize in Texas, stating, “that the NRA did not file the bankruptcy petition in good faith.”

During today’s hearing, the court repeatedly recognized the extensive and detailed allegations of misconduct in Attorney General James’ complaint against the NRA.

Some fiscal mismanagement details from the NRA’s own 2020 tax return (its most recent available):

THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION HAS IDENTIFIED WHAT IT BELIEVES ARE EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTIONS IN WHICH IT ENGAGED IN 2019 AND IN PRIOR CALENDAR YEARS OF WHICH IT BECAME AWARE BUT WERE NOT REPORTED ON ITS PRIOR FORMS 990. THESE TRANSACTIONS ARE EXPLAINED BELOW. THERE ARE OTHER TRANSACTIONS IN 2019 AND PRIOR CALENDAR YEARS THAT ARE STILL UNDER REVIEW BY THE NRA AND/OR ARE CURRENTLY SUBJECT TO DISPUTE IN THE FOLLOWING LEGAL PROCEEDINGS:

1. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, BY LETITIA JAMES, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK V. THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN, INC., WAYNE LAPIERRE, WILSON PHILLIPS, JOHN FRAZER AND JOSHUA POWELL, PENDING IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, [ALBANY COUNTY] INDEX NO. 451625/2020;

2. THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA V. OLIVER NORTH, PENDING IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, [ALBANY COUNTY] INDEX NO. 903843-20;

3. THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA AND WAYNE LAPIERRE V. ACKERMAN MCQUEEN, INC., ET. AL., PENDING IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS, DALLAS DIVISION, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-CV-02074-G; AND

4. NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA V. AMC MCQUEEN, INC. AND MERCURY GROUP, INC., PENDING IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA, [VIRGINIA], CASE NOS.: CL19001757, CL19002067 AND CL19002886.


THE NRA CANNOT AT THE TIME THIS FORM 990 IS FILED DETERMINE WHETHER THESE OTHER TRANSACTIONS ARE EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTION.

1. WAYNE R. LAPIERRE: IT HAS BEEN DETERMINED THAT IN 2013 AND 2014, THERE WERE SIX (6) TRIPS ON CHARTERED JETS THAT RESULTED IN AN EXCESS BENEFIT TO MR. LAPIERRE. MR. LAPIERRE WAS, DURING THOSE YEARS, THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NRA, AND THUS A DISQUALIFIED PERSON WITHIN THE INTENDMENT OF SECTION 4958 OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE CODE (“CODE”). THE NRA ESTIMATES THAT ITS EXPENSES FOR THESE TRIPS, WHICH CONSTITUTE AUTOMATIC EXCESS BENEFITS TO MR. LAPIERRE BECAUSE THESE AMOUNTS WERE NOT INTENDED TO BE COMPENSATION, TOTALED $43,743.83, FOR WHICH THE NRA EXPECTS TO RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT FROM MR. LAPIERRE, PLUS INTEREST. THE NRA ESTIMATES THAT THE TOTAL CODE SECTION 4958 EXCISE TAX ON THESE EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTIONS IS $10,935.96.

2. WILSON “WOODY” PHILLIPS: FROM 2014 THROUGH 2018, MR. PHILLIPS WAS SUBMITTING AND RECEIVING REIMBURSEMENTS FROM THE NRA FOR AIRFARE FROM HIS HOME IN DALLAS, TEXAS, TO WASHINGTON, D.C. MR. PHILLIPS SERVED AS TREASURER AND CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER OF THE NRA AND WAS THUS A DISQUALIFIED PERSON WITHIN THE INTENDMENT OF CODE SECTION 4958. IF THESE TRIPS CONSTITUTE COMMUTING (WHICH THE NRA IS PRESENTLY INVESTIGATING), THE NRA BELIEVES SUCH REIMBURSEMENT WOULD CONSTITUTE EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTIONS. THE TOTAL AMOUNT REIMBURSED BY THE NRA TO MR. PHILLIPS FROM 2014 THROUGH 2018 IS ESTIMATED TO BE $74,751.31, WHICH WOULD GENERATE UNDER CODE SECTION 4958 EXCISE TAX DUE FROM MR. PHILLIPS OF $18,687.83. THE NRA IS CURRENTLY UNAWARE AS TO WHETHER MR. PHILLIPS INTENDS TO REPAY THE AMOUNT OF ANY EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTIONS, PLUS INTEREST.

THE NRA HAS LEARNED THAT FROM 2016 THROUGH 2018, THE NRA PAID FOR EXPENSES INCURRED FOR PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP AND HAIR SERVICES IN CONNECTION WITH THE ATTENDANCE OF MRS. SUSAN LAPIERRE AT CERTAIN NRA FUNCTIONS. MRS. LAPIERRE IS A DISQUALIFIED PERSON UNDER CODE SECTION 4958(F)(1)(B) AND (4). PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP AND HAIR SERVICES MAY NOT BE DEDUCTIBLE AS A TRADE OR BUSINESS EXPENSE IF PAID BY MRS. LAPIERRE, AND AS SUCH, MAY BE EXCESS BENEFIT TRANSACTIONS. THE NRA IS INVESTIGATING THE CIRCUMSTANCES, NUMBER OF TIMES AND COST OF PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP AND HAIR SERVICES FOR MRS. LAPIERRE. THE NRA EXPECTS TO RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT FROM MR. LAPIERRE, PLUS INTEREST, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THERE IS AN EXCESS BENEFIT.

THE NRA HAS LEARNED THAT FROM 2011 THROUGH 2017, WAYNE AND SUSAN LAPIERRE HAVE BEEN REIMBURSED BY THE NRA FOR GIFTS PROVIDED TO NRA VENDORS, DONORS, EMPLOYEES AND, PERHAPS, OTHERS, APPARENTLY RELATED TO FURTHERING THE CHARITABLE PURPOSE OF THE NRA. BECAUSE MANY OF THE GIFTS MADE TO NON-NRA EMPLOYEES WERE IN EXCESS OF THE $25 PER DONEE BUSINESS GIFT DEDUCTION LIMITATION, THE NRA BELIEVES THE EXCESS AMOUNT LIKELY CONSTITUTES AUTOMATIC EXCESS BENEFITS TO MR. LAPIERRE BECAUSE THESE AMOUNTS WERE NOT INTENDED TO BE COMPENSATION. AT THIS TIME THE NRA CANNOT CALCULATE THE EXACT AMOUNT OF ANY SUCH EXCESS BENEFIT. THE NRA EXPECTS TO RECEIVE REIMBURSEMENT FROM MR. LAPIERRE, PLUS INTEREST, FOR AMOUNTS EXCEEDING $25 PER GIFT, PER DONEE.

A smidge of nonprofit-enabled exec fattening from the NRA’s 2019 tax return:

MR. LAPIERRE IS THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE NRA. HE IS ANOFFICER AND IS THUS A DISQUALIFIED PERSON WITHIN THE INTENDMENT OF CODE SECTION 4958. TREAS. REG. SECT. 53.4958-3(C)(2). FROM 2015 THROUGH 2019, THE NRA ESTIMATES THAT IT PAID ON BEHALF OF MR. LAPIERRE, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, TRAVEL EXPENSES FOR MR. LAPIERRE IN THE AGGREGATE AMOUNT OF $299,778.78. THE NRA HAS DETERMINED TO TREAT THE PAYMENTS AS AUTOMATIC EXCESS BENEFITS UNDER TREASURY REGULATIONS SECTION 53.4958-4(C). MR. LAPIERRE HAS REPAID THIS EXCESS BENEFIT TO NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, PLUS INTEREST, AND THEREFORE THE EXCESS BENEFIT HAS BEEN CORRECTED. THE AMOUNT OF EXCISE TAX DUE UNDER CODE SECTION 4958 BY MR. LAPIERRE HAS BEEN ESTIMATED TO BE $74,944.70. IN ADDITION, THE NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAS CHALLENGED, AS UNREASONABLE, COMPENSATION PAID TO MR. LAPIERRE DURING HIS TENURE.

THE NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAS ALLEGED THAT COMPENSATION PAID TO MR. PHILLIPS DURING AND AFTER TENURE HIS TENURE WAS UNREASONABLE.

THE NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL HAS ALLEGED THAT COMPENSATION PAID TO MR. FRAZER HAS BEEN UNREASONABLE.

There’s more detail about questionable self-enrichment via nonprofit dollars in the NRA’s 2019 tax form, for those who care to read more about NRA leadership self-enrichment.

Finally, just a bit from NY AG James’ People vs. NRA suit referenced previously. Specifically, this detail comes from the March 2022 decision about which components of James’ suit would be dismissed and which would be allowed to proceed (legal references removed for ease of reading):

From May 2015 to April 2019, the NRA incurred over one million dollars in expenses for private flights on which LaPierre was not a passenger. The NYAG alleges these expenditures were neither authorized by nor consented to by the NRA Board. In its annual filings with the Attorney General for 2014 to 2018, the NRA asserted that it required substantiation prior to reimbursing these expenses, but the NYAG says it has not found any evidence that the private flights and related business uses were substantiated prior to reimbursement. In fact, the NRA’s then-Treasurer learned for the first time that LaPierre’s wife travels alone by private charter at the NRA’s expense when counsel informed him the night before he was examined by the Attorney General in June 2020.

At LaPierre’s instigation, the NRA allegedly reimbursed him for numerous expenses that were personal, including gifts to friends and favored employees. Between 2013 and 2017, LaPierre was reimbursed for more than $1.2 million in expenses, including over $65,000 for Christmas gifts for his staff, various donors, and friends. Between 2009 and 2017, LaPierre expensed over a hundred thousand dollars in membership fees for a golf club located in the Washington D.C. area. LaPierre testified that he uses the golf course for both personal and business reasons. In its annual filings with the Attorney General for 2014 to 2018, the NRA asserted that it required substantiation prior to reimbursing these expenses, but the NYAG has not found any evidence that this occurred. In the last 15 years, LaPierre has allegedly directed the NRA to pay officers, directors, and former employees millions of dollars in “consulting” agreements without Board approval and in violation of the bylaw prohibition on salary or other private benefits to directors without Board authorization. LaPierre allegedly secured for himself a lucrative post-employment contract with the NRA, which obligates the NRA to continue to pay LaPierre for years after he departs the organization — at a higher rate than his compensation as Executive Vice President. The Attorney General alleges “[t]here is no evidence that the NRA Board or a designated committee reviewed or approved” this “poison-pill” contract. LaPierre allegedly stifled any internal dissent aimed at scrutinizing the NRA’s governance and finances under his leadership. He allegedly retaliated against a former NRA President (called “Dissident No. 1” in the Complaint) when the President began making inquiries into the Brewer firm’s billing practices and the operations of the NRA. Likewise, when several Board members raised similar concerns, they were “stonewalled, accused of disloyalty, stripped of committee assignments, and denied effective counsel necessary to properly discharge [their] responsibilities as board members”.

In sum, four of James’ claims were dismissed and 14 allowed to proceed. Her call for dissolution of the NRA was denied, but most of her suit stands, as the March 02, 2022, NBC New York reports:

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge has rejected an effort by New York’s attorney general to put the National Rifle Association out of business, but will allow her lawsuit accusing top executives of illegally diverting tens of millions of dollars from the powerful gun advocacy organization to proceed.

Manhattan Judge Joel M. Cohen said allegations of NRA officials misspending on personal trips, no-show contracts and other questionable expenditures can be addressed by other remedies, such as fines and restitution, and do not warrant the “corporate death penalty” that Attorney General Letitia James had sought.

James’ lawsuit, filed in August 2020, tells “a grim story of greed, self-dealing, and lax financial oversight” at the NRA’s highest levels, but it does not allege any financial misconduct benefited the organization or harmed the public, or that the NRA is incapable of “continuing its legitimate activities on behalf of its millions of members,” Cohen wrote in a 42-page decision.

The judge also raised concerns that shutting down the NRA could impinge the free speech and assembly rights of its millions of members. Nevertheless, he said, James’ lawsuit can continue against the NRA, its longtime leader Wayne LaPierre, and three other people who have served as executives with the organization. They had filed a motion to dismiss the case.

“While we’re heartened that the judge rejected the NRA’s attempts to thwart most of the claims in our case against the NRA, we are disappointed that the judge ruled against the dissolution portion of the case,” James said in a statement. “We are considering our legal options with respect to this ruling. We remain committed to enforcing New York law regardless of how powerful any individual or organization may be.”

A message seeking comment was left with the NRA.

For the charges that Cohen decided could proceed, James is not just seeking fines and restitution, although that is part of what she seeks:

The Attorney General’s Complaint seeks restitution and other monetary relief from four current and former NRA officers (to be repaid to the NRA), as well as their removal from NRA employment and permanent injunctions against serving as officers, directors, or trustees of any not-for-profit or charitable organization incorporated or authorized to conduct business or solicit charitable contributions in New York.

For the damage [LaPierre and Frazier] allegedly caused the NRA, the Attorney General seeks restitution from both Defendants, including the return of their salaries (plus interest). The NYAG also seeks to remove both Defendants from their positions in the NRA and to bar them from “re-election or reappointment as an officer or director” in the organization.

James could be LaPierre’s fiscal undoing.

Thoughts and prayers, man. Thoughts and prayers.

Wayne LaPierre

_______________________________________________

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