Placeholder Image

[Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

National Rifle Association

More NRA Donors Join Financial Revolt Against LaPierre

Dissenters continue to fear reprisals, but there are glimmers of momentum for an internal campaign to withhold contributions to the gun group.

Two more National Rifle Association donors have gone on record with their allegiance to a campaign to force reform at the scandal-rocked organization by starving it of funding.

Jeff Swinford has been a reliable donor to the gun organization, giving thousands in cash over the years in response to urgent fundraising appeals from its leadership. “Wayne LaPierre talking about how desperate everything is would make you want to donate money,” he said of the missives sent in the name of the NRA’s leader. With no children, Swinford, 57, had also considered leaving the NRA a significant sum in his will.

But the reports of extensive financial misconduct at the NRA have led Swinford to cut off the gun group altogether. “No one would defend the current business practices,” he said. “I’m not happy money has been wasted. That’s money we could be spending fighting legislation to hold onto our right to bear arms.”

The financial revolt against the NRA’s leadership now also includes a former member of the group’s board of directors, who told The Trace he is eliminating a $1 million bequest to the NRA from his will. The ex-NRA director asked that his name not be used, citing his ongoing involvement in state-level gun politics. He said he believes the current structure of the board makes oversight impossible and invites corruption. “Wayne is the symptom,” he said. “The board is the disease.”

Like the pro-gun bloggers and rank-and-file NRA members coming forward to express their dismay with the group, Swinford and the former NRA board member say they are outraged by reports of extensive financial misconduct by top executives and vendors, revelations first uncovered by The Trace in an April article co-published in partnership with The New Yorker. “LaPierre should be removed immediately if he’s mismanaged the money one one-hundredth of what they said he’s done,” Swinford said.

The campaign to withhold funds from the NRA was launched earlier this month by NRA donor David Dell’aquila, an IT entrepreneur from Tennessee. Chief among his demands: the resignation of LaPierre, whom he has called “radioactive.” Dell’aquila is also calling for a 30-member board, pared down from the current 76, as well as for meetings to be held only in easily accessible cities (the next is planned for Anchorage, Alaska), and the ouster of directors friendly to LaPierre.

Dell’aquila said he was moved to act after he privately took his concerns to NRA leadership, only to have them quickly dismissed. The leaders’ reaction, he says, convinced him that the organization could not be reformed quietly from within, and will only respond to external pressure. “People are intimidated and won’t come out against Wayne LaPierre. That’s thanks to 30 years of clever branding that Wayne and the NRA are one,” Dell’aquila said. “The question is, how relevant will the NRA be when monies are withheld and directed to other nonprofit organizations that deal with the Second Amendment?”

According to a website for his effort, helpsavethenra.com, as of July 10, Dell’aquila had persuaded a group of NRA supporters to withhold more than $153 million in planned donations. He has not published a list of the donors’ names and amounts they had pledged to give. In addition to Swinford and the ex-NRA director, the other reported member of his fledgling insurrection is an anonymous senior firearms industry executive who told The New York Times he has cut off donations and is canceling a future $2 million-plus gift from his estate. “The donors are rebelling,” he told the newspaper.

Calls for a contribution boycott have since spread to popular gun rights media outlets like Outdoor Wire and The Truth About Guns. And some of the smaller donors on whom the NRA collectively depends for a significant share of its revenues have also signed on.

“It appears to us that this organization is a free-for-all for the leadership to spend unlimited amounts of our money on whatever they want,” said one lifetime member, a big-game hunter, who has contributed at the Endowment, Patron, and Benefactor levels, a total of $4,000 above the $1,500 cost of a lifetime membership. The member requested anonymity out of a fear of being blacklisted by the gun group. “I’m not donating a penny until this gets sorted out.”