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News and notes on guns in America

What We Learned From NRA Boss Wayne LaPierre’s Rare Media Interview

National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre rarely gives interviews. So it was a surprise to many when, earlier this week, The New York Times Magazine published a feature story detailing LaPierre’s take on the turmoil that has engulfed the NRA since early 2018.

Here are five takeaways from the story:

LaPierre may face scrutiny for criminal violations

New York Attorney General Letitia James has been investigating LaPierre and the NRA for possible civil violations of nonprofit law since April. The Times story reports that some people in LaPierre’s orbit and veterans of the attorney general’s office believe that James may consider referring him for criminal prosecution for misuse of NRA funds. LaPierre used NRA money to pay for clothing and travel. But one nonprofit law expert cautioned that no evidence has emerged that LaPierre siphoned money directly into his own pocket.

LaPierre knew some details of Oliver North’s NRATV contract

Former NRA president Oliver North, who was ousted earlier this year after clashing with LaPierre, had a $2 million annual contract with the NRA’s longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen. The money, reimbursed by the NRA, was ostensibly for him to appear on NRATV. It was an unusual arrangement for a nonprofit president and its origins are a matter of dispute. Ackerman has alleged in court that LaPierre helped negotiate North’s contract. Speaking to the Times, LaPierre denied having done so, but acknowledged for the first time to “a basic understanding of some of the points.”

Internal scrutiny began amid news media revelations

The story says that, soon after LaPierre hired William Brewer as the NRA’s outside counsel in early 2018, the attorney “began looking at anything that might attract the attention of a regulator… Brewer’s firm requested documents from employees and vendors, including Ackerman. But emails sent in April, May and July to one of Ackerman’s outside lawyers did not produce all the documents sought.” Some context: By April and May, much of the NRA’s financial mismanagement had been publicly documented by The Trace and other media outlets.

NRA insiders saw risk in battling Ackerman

Steven Hart, a longtime NRA attorney, expressed dismay in April when the organization sued Ackerman, a move driven by Brewer. “Let loose the dogs of war,” Hart wrote to an NRA executive, the story says. “Brewer just picked a fight with the folks with all the dirt on expenses for the last 30 years.” Hart soon lost his job after falling out of favor with LaPierre. 

LaPierre paints himself as the victim

LaPierre called the recent upheaval at the NRA “the most painful period of my life.” He also described North’s scrutiny of NRA spending as “never-ending waterboarding.”