Working for the National Rifle Association was like a dream for Aaron Davis.
A committed supporter of gun rights since his youth, Davis landed a job on the NRA’s fundraising team in 2005. But as he told The Trace’s Mike Spies in a recent broadcast of The New Yorker Radio Hour, he eventually became disillusioned with the organization due to “an inherent conflict of interest” in how the NRA conducted its finances. He quit in 2015.
In an investigation published in partnership with The New Yorker, Spies documented how the NRA’s leadership, contractors, and vendors have extracted millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget. Ackerman McQueen, the PR firm the NRA paid more than $40 million in 2017, was central to that financial siphoning.
“They’re a for-profit organization, trying to make money, trying to do things that would bring more money to them,” Davis said of Ackerman McQueen. “So they have completely different intentions than a nonprofit should have, which is for the common good; for the better good. So those lines were just so blurry.”
Davis described how the more Ackerman McQueen became involved in his department, the more the costs increased. “I only saw my budget, but overall, I did not know where all the money went,” he said.
Davis said one of the reasons he was willing to speak publicly about his former employer was that “it just doesn’t seem like NRA leadership is all that concerned about this.”
After a decade at the organization, Davis finally quit in 2015, in part because he felt he was “drinking the Kool-Aid” of an organizational leadership for whom “it’s all about politics and winning.”
“I just feel like there is a sickness of the heart within NRA leadership,” he said.