Lee’s note: Joel Freidman is a member of the National Rifle Association’s board of directors. His letter arrived unsolicited and is published with permission.
Setting the Record Straight
While I have wanted to speak out concerning the situation at the NRA, I have not due to the amount of litigation that has been ongoing, as well as my belief in the fiduciary responsibilities of a board member and trustee. However, I feel strongly about our mission to protect the Second Amendment, and while I may be maligned by some for sharing my thoughts, I can no longer remain silent.
I am not a Johnny-come-lately. I have been involved in the firearm rights movement for over 30 years, primarily at the grassroots level in California. I have gotten hard, calloused hands from my work, and I’m proud of it. I have been on the NRA Board of Directors since 2004 and served on various committees.
I would like to begin by discussing how we, the NRA, got to where we are today. After the election of Donald Trump – an election in which the NRA played a key role in securing his victory – the other side determined that they must find a way to neutralize, if not completely destroy, our Association in an attempt to win back Congress, the White House, and to destroy firearms’ freedoms as we know them today.
Funding for this anti-NRA campaign comes from people whose net worth is more than 11 figures. Their interest income alone from a month or two is so much greater than the entire budget of the NRA. For you and me, it is hard to conceive of such wealth.
Through the talents of those they hired, these people are working to destroy the reputation of the NRA – and attack our not-for-profit status. As we know, ongoing investigations by the attorneys general in New York and Washington D.C. have caused the NRA to use more resources for legal help than anyone could have ever imagined. But it is a battle we must fight based on our commitment to good governance. Losing our not-for-profit status would put the NRA out of business. I fear it would also lead to a repeal of the Second Amendment.
Beyond this critical fight, we also are waging a battle that could impact advocacy organizations across our nation. Our First Amendment lawsuit against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) is so significant that the ACLU has filed an amicus brief in support of the Association.
The NRA contends that Governor Cuomo and DFS are trying to coerce banks and insurance companies to withhold services from the NRA as retaliation for our political advocacy. If New York is successful in violating the NRA’s First Amendment rights, then every advocacy group in this country is at risk. We cannot allow politicians to determine who should and should not be in business because of their political or religious views.
In the face of orchestrated campaigns and legal disputes, the NRA has made tough decisions – demanding, among other things, increased transparency from its vendors. Most complied, but not all.
After 38 years of working hand-in-hand with the NRA, it is MY BELIEF that one of our vendors attempted to take over NRA leadership in order to preserve its own lucrative contracts. It is also MY BELIEF that this vendor had, for some time, believed that the NRA’s entire success was due to its efforts alone.
For more information on this, I encourage you to read the NRA’s lawsuit filed against Col. North. You will see what was done, and what was attempted, by this vendor.
As we know, the takeover attempt failed. Subsequently, as threatened, certain documents were leaked online with an aim to make NRA top management and board members look bad.
When tens of millions of dollars are on the line, some people will do extraordinary things.
I know there have been comments from certain individuals about how much money the NRA is “wasting” using its current legal firm. I bring to you a quote from Mr. Harlon Carter, creator of ILA and someone who brought the NRA into the political fight that would be necessary to preserve the Second Amendment.
He said, “I’ll spend every dime the NRA has to protect the Second Amendment.” Ladies and gentlemen, the NRA is in a fight for its life right now.
For those who have had negative things to say about the law firm representing us, I ask one simple question: Name one thing the firm has done that has hurt the NRA? Thus far, no one has been able to answer that question. The reality is, the firm has continuously moved the ball forward and pulled off improbable and extraordinary victories, while handling multiple cases on multiple playing fields.
With regard to the allegations made against Wayne LaPierre – brought forward in conjunction with the failed takeover attempt – I would like to remind everyone that he has given his life to the NRA and to the protection of the Second Amendment. Over the years, he excelled in every position he held and was finally elected as Executive Vice President (EVP) in 1991. During his tenure as EVP, the NRA grew from an anemic less-than-two-million-member association into a more than five-million-member powerhouse.
From his days as an NRA lobbyist to now, Wayne has played a pivotal role in our greatest accomplishments. For instance, when we kept the Gun Control Act of 1968 from taking your guns. When we lost on the “assault weapon ban,” but were smart enough to push for a 10-year sunset clause that expired. When we passed the ’86 Firearm Owners Protection Act. We stopped excessive waiting periods and one-a-month purchase schemes. The NRA led the fight to increase carry states from three to more than 40. Consider the NRA’s growth, under Wayne, from a standpoint of influence, finance and power.
Some claim his time has passed. I disagree. Wayne is still guiding the NRA faithfully, strategically and correctly through the most difficult time in its 150-year history. And after over four decades, Wayne knows more people, has more insight, and garners more respect than anyone I know. His absence alone would create problems not only for the NRA, but for the defense of the Second Amendment.
I want to directly address all the “lavish” spending that Wayne has been accused of.
Over the last 15 years, he has done hundreds of media interviews, campaign commercials, and attended thousands of events in promotion of the NRA and the Second Amendment. His wardrobe expenditures were directed by Ackerman McQueen. The agency invoiced the NRA for the clothing as a business expense.
During that same period, Wayne was responsible for helping to raise $300-400 million annually, or $25-33 million a month. But for discussion purposes only, let’s say that Wayne, through his direct involvement in speeches and media appearances, helped raise roughly $8 million a month (that’s 25%). That translates in 15 years to $1.5 billion. In that circumstance, the money spent on clothes is miniscule – not to mention the number of people this money helped elect who have stood by us and helped us save the Second Amendment.
Now, go and check other large associations in the hundred(s) million-dollar world and see what their CEO is getting in total renumerations. The truth is, Mr. Wayne LaPierre is one of the most underpaid people in the giant trade and interest group world by percentage.
Now let’s talk about the trips. These trips were to secure and interact with both donors and high-profile individuals and to arrange for the donation of firearms. Do you think the NRA’s high-profile supporters magically appear to support our cause? Do you think that this happens overnight? That is what Wayne and only Wayne is able to do based on his reputation.
So the idea that his time has passed and it’s time for him to leave is probably the single largest mistake anyone can make. Everyone should not only be thankful, but should pray for his continued good health and dedication. This man has received more death threats than almost anyone else on the planet. For Pete’s sake – Google it – it’s public knowledge – Wayne LaPierre was “swatted!” He and his family have been targeted in more ways than anyone can imagine.
Let us discuss what some of the anti-NRA, anti-Wayne people are saying, “I don’t know what’s going on but …”
Now to be fair, that’s because they don’t know, and they can’t know the details because of the lawsuits as well as the New York investigation. Therefore, isn’t it ludicrous for anyone to make decisions and proclamations after admitting they’re ignorant of the facts.
I ask you to consider this for a moment – do you think that there’s anyone better equipped to guide the NRA during these challenging times? The neophytes who are agitating would get their clocks cleaned in about 2 hours! Even our former chief lobbyist – as talented as he may be – wouldn’t be able to navigate this. Let’s face it – the reason the opposition wants Wayne gone is because they know without him, it’s easier to take down the NRA. And, now, we have some so-called pro-gun types naively joining the chorus!
The last part of my message has to do with the concept that the NRA is wasting its money and there is no oversight. Not only do we have a Treasurer’s department, we have a finance committee overseeing the organization, and we have an audit committee. We are all under such a microscope that I personally have been refused payments for expenses I have incurred because I only had credit card statements and not the actual receipts. This idea that the board and top management are ripping off the organization is just another attempt to separate us and to neuter our ability to do the job we need to do in 2020, which is to protect the rights of firearm owners in America. No one else can do it, and if we all don’t stick together and stop letting the haters and the media drive us apart, the anti-gunners will win.
You don’t believe me? In an article from The Hill, “Democrats Look to Capitalize on Turmoil Inside the NRA,” dated July 23, 2019, Democratic members of congress claim that we are plagued by “internal problems” and state, “Now’s the time to capitalize on that.”
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign, states, “Given the series of self-inflicted wounds that they have, which are draining significantly diminished resources at a significant rate, yes, it’s obviously a time for us really to focus on pushing candidates and pushing this issue.”
I believe many are fueling the exact false and inaccurate narrative driven by our adversaries – dividing us in a manner that weakens the Association and strengthens our enemies. We must not posture our adversaries for success. Doing so supports them in their aim is to take away our constitutional freedoms.
In closing, please allow me to say that we truly appreciate that the majority of our members are committed to the NRA – and its fight to protect the Second Amendment. We appreciate that they, like us, trust that we’ll prevail over these orchestrated attacks.
The stakes are higher than they have ever been. It is time to come together – united and committed in support of the NRA and the constitutional freedoms in which we all believe.
NRA Board Member