I have always felt that Wayne LaPierre seemed like an insecure person from the first time I saw him in person. That was at the NRA Annual Meeting in Charlotte in 2010 where he was walking the floor with a team of personal bodyguards. If there was anywhere he should be feel safe, you would think it was there.
While I didn’t realize it then, his personal insecurity goes far deeper in my opinion.
We have watched him surround himself with staff whose backgrounds made them utterly dependent upon him for their jobs. I’m talking about his personal assistant who is a prohibited person, his former chief of staff whom most found to be an incompetent, and even a CFO who had embezzled in his prior position.
Despite all of this, I never thought Wayne would have to resort to rigging elections to the Board of Directors to preserve his position.
I was wrong.
The podcast Gangster Capitalism has been running a series about the NRA this year. They thought they had finished Season Two when they got a tip from Dezarae Payne and Michael Schwartz. Both had been active in the NRA Members’ Councils of California. It turns out the Members Councils were not really the grass roots activists fighting for the preservation of gun rights in California. Rather they became a tool to be used by Wayne to assure the election to the board of people supportive of him and keep him in power.
The key to the scheme was Paul Payne who is employed by the NRA as the Liaison to the Executive Vice President. Payne, who is separated from Ms. Payne, was paid by the NRA $80,000 annually, had a $3,000 monthly expense account, had a leased car of his choice, and had a personal assistant who was paid $60,000 a year. Of course, he had benefits on top of this.
From The Trace which picked up the story:
Dezarae Payne told the podcast that every year LaPierre’s office gives Paul Payne the names of NRA board candidates considered allies of the longtime boss of the gun group. Payne then works through the council to lobby NRA members in California to vote for those candidates. Because such a small percentage of members take part in the annual mail ballot election for board seats, Dezarea Payne said, her husband’s electioneering has routinely been critical to victory.
But that wasn’t the whole of it.
Every year, Dezarea Payne said, her husband solicits volunteers who are flown to the convention to encourage members to back LaPierre’s favored candidate for the one-year term. These volunteers are given free concert and event tickets at the convention, and treated to a lavish dinner with LaPierre and his key aides. Payne said the trip costs the NRA $35,000 to $45,000 and has been a clandestine affair. “You have to be completely loyal to Wayne,” she said of the volunteers, who typically number up to a dozen. “You can’t question what they are doing, you have to be secretive, you can’t tell people what you are doing, who you work for.”
I saw this in action at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas. Liston Matthews of the Good Hill Press Blog and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn in the Cockrell Hill section of town. There were a number of people there from the Members’ Council of California and they were talking up Herb Lankford for 76th Director. However, we were supporting Adam Kraut in his second attempt at the board. If you walked on the floor of the expo center, you saw support for Adam everywhere. Nonetheless, Mr. Lankford was elected. Not to dismiss Mr. Lankford but I wondered why a bunch of guys from California were so up on someone from Columbia, South Carolina. It didn’t make sense then but it does now.
You really need to listen to the podcast. You have to hear it in the words of Ms. Payne and Mr. Schwartz. Merely reading it does not have the same impact.
Wayne’s personal insecurity reminds me a lot of Richard Nixon in 1972. They both directly or indirectly resorted to stuff to assure their position when it wasn’t needed. There was no way that Richard Nixon was going to lose to George McGovern but Watergate still happened. As to the NRA, the bylaws make it virtually impossible to oust Wayne.
What happens now is anybody’s guess. The Board could demand Wayne’s retirement or resignation but I somehow doubt that will happen. The Attorney General of New York will probably add this to her list of things to investigate. The one thing that is sure is that just when we face a critical election for gun rights, Wayne’s attention – and the NRA’s by extension – will be elsewhere.