Jennifer Baker, the NRA-ILA Director of Political Affairs, is stepping down from her post and leaving ILA. This comes from a report posted about an hour ago in Politico. Ms. Baker was a reported to be a key aide to former NRA-ILA Director Chris Cox and was active on the campaign side of ILA.
Baker’s departure, which was confirmed by several people familiar with the matter, could further complicate the group’s ability to play in the 2020 election. She had been playing a key role in mapping out the NRA’s electoral strategy.
The move comes one month after Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief political architect, resigned. Cox had deep relationships with Republican political class, and with his exit many of the party’s top strategists have expressed concern that the organization will be severely hamstrung heading into the presidential election. The NRA plays a major role in turning out gun owners, and many in the party are worried that the group will be less effective in 2020.
The NRA has long been a centerpiece of the Republican Party ecosystem. But the organization has found itself in intense chaos in recent months, confronting embarrassing tales of self-dealing at its highest levels of leadership, a failed coup attempt and an investigation by the New York Attorney General into its tax-exempt status.
This comes less than three weeks since Chris Cox resigned. As I mentioned when Jason Ouimet was appointed the interim head of NRA-ILA, the loss of Chris Cox would have its biggest impact on the campaign side of NRA-ILA. The departure of Ms. Baker will only exacerbate this loss of knowledge, relationships, and political savvy when it comes to political campaigns.
When Cox was suspended for participation in the mythical “coup”, Ms. Baker was quoted in the New York Times defending Cox.
Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A.’s lobbying arm, said Mr. Cox and Mr. LaPierre had “worked closely together for a quarter of a century, and any notion that Chris participated in a coup is absurd. Chris Cox is known as a calming force who always acts in the best interests of our members by effectively defending the Second Amendment, so it’s not surprising that board members would reach out to him for advice during tumultuous times.”
I have no idea on Ms. Baker’s future plans. That said, I would not be surprised in the least if she ended up at Cox’s new venture Capital 6 Advisors.
UPDATE: I’m not entirely sure Ms. Baker’s departure was by her choice. She reportedly was escorted out of the building by an armed guard and was crying. I’ve gotten this from a couple of sources.
I guess in terms of purges this is somewhat better than ending up in the basement of the Lubyanka. The actions of the Old Guard remind me more and more of the last days of the Soviet Union with the leaders and appartchiks desperately seeking to hold on to power. Ah, the curses of being a poli sci major and having lived through a good part of the Cold War.
UPDATE II: The Hill is reporting that Ms. Baker’s departure is part of a “consolidation” of its communications.
“The NRA announced a reorganization of its public affairs function this week,” the NRA said in a statement to The Hill. “The change consolidates and improves our communications, public affairs, and social media functions. All these operations now operate under one department, eliminating a parallel function in NRA-ILA. We are excited about the change and the benefits it brings to the organization and its members.”
It is also a consolidation of power in the executive suite of the NRA and a further diminishment of the role of the NRA-ILA. Prior to this, if I remember correctly, most communication with the press especially on things with a political overtone was done through NRA-ILA.
As to being excited about the change, I’m sure the one person who is excited about it is William Brewer III who seems to be becoming the de facto spokesman for the NRA.