SCI Utah Chapter Had A Special Guest

I get a lot of press releases in my email. Most are somewhat interesting but not enough to prompt me to post about it.

I got one this morning on behalf of the Utah Chapter of Safari Club International. They raised $350,000 at their recent banquet. Having been in charge of a banquet and auction years ago for my local chapter of Trout Unlimited, I can assure you this is an astounding figure. If we made $20,000, it was considered a phenomenal amount.

$105,000 of this money will go to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources while another $210,000 will be spent by the chapter on DWR-approved wildlife conservation projects.

However, that is not what made this press release so interesting. Look at the picture below. Notice anyone that looks familiar. How about the guy in the blue sports coat?

If you said to yourself, “Damn! Isn’t that Chris Cox?” The answer would be yes. After getting stabbed in the back by the unholy alliance of Wayne LaPierre and Bill Brewer, he formed his own public affairs firm called Capital 6 Advisors. David Lehman, former Deputy Director of NRA-ILA and its General Counsel, is also now part of that firm.

Cox was the special guest speaker at the banquet. He had this to say:

“The incredible success of SCI Utah’s Annual Conservation Auction and Banquet demonstrates Utah’s strong support for our hunting heritage and right to keep and bear arms. The money raised at this event will ensure that wildlife species and their habitats will continue to grow and thrive. The enthusiasm and dedication from the chapter members clearly show that the future of hunting and conservation in Utah is in good hands.”

I am glad to see Cox starting to reemerge in public. I can only speculate how things might have been different in the 2020 elections if he had still been at the head of ILA. Maybe Trump would have still lost but I really think the Senate Majority Leader would still be Mitch McConnell and not that reptilian Chuck Schumer.

NRA Releases 2019 Tax Filing

Non-profit organizations are required to release and make public their IRS Form 990 filings. The Form 990 is their equivalent of a corporate tax return. The submission is usually almost a year after the end of the prior year.

Today, the Washington Post reported that the NRA’s 2019 Form 990 was made public. It has some interesting admissions contained within it. I’m just going to hit the highlights and will post a link to the actual Form 990 so that you can examine it for yourself.

From the article by Beth Reinhard and Carol Leonnig:

The tax return, which The Washington Post obtained from the organization, says the NRA “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.” The 2019 filing states that LaPierre and five former executives received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses to describe executives’ enriching themselves at the expense of a nonprofit entity.

The disclosures in the tax return suggest that the organization is standing by its 71-year-old chief executive while continuing to pursue former executives of the group.The filing says that LaPierre “corrected” his financial lapses with a repayment and contends that former executives “improperly” used NRA funds or charged the nonprofit for expenses that were “not appropriate.”

LaPierre has reimbursed the organization nearly $300,000 in travel expenses covering 2015 to 2019, according to the tax return, which does not explain how that amount was determined or when LaPierre paid it.

As was reported in the Wall Street Journal in October, the Internal Revenue Service is supposedly investigating Wayne LaPierre for criminal tax fraud. There is a lot of speculation that this tax filing which was signed by Wayne himself was a way to mitigate the damage of that investigation.

Three tax and accounting experts who reviewed the 2019 tax return for The Post said the disclosures show the organization and LaPierre trying to take responsibility and avoid further legal jeopardy.

“This is the type of cleanup I would expect to see after a history of gross violations of nonprofit law,” said Philip Hackney, an associate professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh who worked at the IRS for five years until 2011 providing legal oversight of tax-exempt organizations.

LaPierre personally signed the 2019 tax return; such a document is customarily signed by the organization’s treasurer. “He is putting himself on the line, under penalties of perjury, which is what you do if you are trying to get in someone’s good graces,” Hackney said.

New York lawyer and expert on nonprofits Daniel Kurtz said, “It’s a smart move by the NRA instead of digging in their heels, though who knows how they came up with the numbers. It’s an admission of wrongdoing, for sure.”

It also appears that this Form 990 is also trying to throw a number of former NRA executives such as Chris Cox and David Lehman of ILA under the bus along with Oliver North. Josh Powell is also mentioned as having received previously unreported excess benefits. Some undisclosed directors are also mentioned as having traveled First Class without “authorization”.

Cox resigned in June 2019 after LaPierre accused him and North of orchestrating a coup — a claim they both denied. The tax return says the organization is seeking to recover more than $1 million it says Cox improperly received for travel, meals and tickets to sporting events.

Cox’s lawyer, Tom Buchanan, called the allegation “false” and said all of the lobbyist’s expenses during his 24 years with the NRA were reviewed and never questioned. Buchanan said also that Cox has provided the New York attorney general with “thousands of documents” and has not been implicated in her investigation.

North was ousted as NRA president last year after accusing LaPierre of spending recklessly on legal fees for Brewer’s firm. The new tax filing says the NRA has “reason to believe” North received excess salary that he failed to earn. North declined through his attorney to comment on the tax return.

North has previously argued that the NRA has falsely accused him of financial improprieties in retaliation for his cooperating as a key witness in the New York investigation, according to pleadings in New York State Court.

“In public, the NRA has said these allegations of misspending were completely unfounded, but these official filings present a picture that a lot of the claims made were accurate and the only question is who was at fault,” said Brian Mittendorf, an accounting professor at Ohio State University.

A quick glance at the Form 990 shows that overall revenues were down by over $60 million and the ongoing operating deficit was $12.2 million for the year. Mind you, this is for 2019 which was pre-pandemic.

There is a lot more there. Now is the time I wish I had taken more accounting classes.

NRA 2019 IRS Form 990 by jpr9954 on Scribd

The really interesting stuff starts at about page 77 and goes from there.

2018 NRA Executive Compensation

When looking at compensation, you have to look beyond mere salaries and bonuses. Total compensation includes both salaries and bonuses but it also includes things like deferred compensation, group life insurance, contributions to retirement plans, and taxable personal expenses.

I was finally able to get a copy of the 2018 Form 990 for the National Rifle Association. This is the tax report that all not-for-profits must file with the Internal Revenue Service. Both 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations are included in this category. The NRA itself is a 501(c)(4) which allows it to engage in political campaign activities while the NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and is not allowed to engage in political campaign activities.

Below is a table of the 12 most highly compensated NRA officials ranging from Wayne LaPierre at the top to Director of Education and Training Eric Frohardt at the bottom. If you click on the icon on the bottom right of the embedded spreadsheet, it will open the full spreadsheet.

In the notes of page 3 of Schedule J of the Form 990 is this explanation of how compensation is determined.

Compensation of the NRA’s top management officials is established by methods including independent compensation consultants, compensation surveys and studies, and comparability data. In addition, under the NRA Bylaws compensation of certain elected officials (including the Executive Vice President) must be approved by the Board of Directors, based on recommendations by the compensation committee. All decisions are properly documented.

I have posted the 2018 Form 990 here for reference.

Since comparability data is one criterion used in establishing these officials compensation, I thought I’d look first at publicly traded firearms companies to see how they compensated their top managers. Their compensation is divided into two portions: cash compensation and equity (or stock) compensation. Equity compensation is used to align the interests of managers with that of stock holders.

At Sturm, Ruger and Company, CEO Chris Killoy had a 2018 salary of $500,000 with a profit sharing bonus of $60,324 and a performance bonus of $503,000. His total cash compensation was $1,063,324. Stock awards raised his total compensation to $2.1 million. Killoy manages a company with over 2,000 employees with plants in three states. By contrast, the NRA has somewhere between 500 and 1,000 employees. The base salaries of the other top managers at Ruger ranges from $240,000 to $325,000.

James Debney, CEO of American Outdoor Brands Corporation, had a higher salary in 2018 but no cash bonus. His cash compensation was his salary of $734,039. He did receive a substantial stock award which raised his total compensation to $2.2 million. He manages a workforce of 1,853 employees. Meanwhile, the base salaries of American Outdoor Brand executives range from a low of $283,000 to a high of $402,000 for the CFO.

When you look at other politically active 501(c)(4) organizations like the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood, the compensation of their executives is substantially less than that of the NRA. For example, Cecile Richards who was the CEO of Planned Parenthood had a total compensation of $1,033,274 from all sources. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club paid Executive Director Michael Brune a total of $333,797 and their CFO about $250,000.

When looking at the compensation of the top managers of the NRA, it is critical to look beyond Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox. Those two are (or were in Cox’s case) very highly compensated as you might expect. However, it is the salaries of next level down that are really concerning.

Who in their right mind could justify paying Josh Powell over $900,000 with a base salary greater than the CEO’s of either Ruger or American Outdoor Brands? Powell is the guy responsible for the debacle of NRA Carry Guard, the guy the NRA spent money on to settle his sexual harassment problems, and the guy who has run multiple companies into the ground. It is ridiculous!

When you compare the salaries of the managers one level down from Wayne to that of virtually any comparable manager in a publicly traded small cap company, there is no comparison. The NRA managers are compensated beyond the level of their position and responsibility. If I had to hazard a guess, they are being compensated as much for their loyalty to their master – Wayne – as for the work that they actually do. This is just not right and sadly I see no change coming in the near to mid future.

Even CNN Gets It Even If Wayne Doesn’t

I know CNN is the home of “fake news” and the rest of that nonsense. Still, even a blind squirrel can sometimes find an acorn. They had a story yesterday about the struggle of the NRA to maintain the political influence it had in 2016 in the 2020 elections. The lead for the story is the personal influence that former NRA-ILA director Chris Cox had with politicians. I mentioned the same thing in my post about Jason Ouimet being appointed the interim head of ILA.

From the CNN story:

The NRA accused Chris Cox — the man who had controlled the organization’s lobbying and political activities for more than 15 years — of trying to overthrow Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre, according to a lawsuit filed last month.


Cox denied the charge to The New York Times, but quickly resigned. His unceremonious sacking stunned NRA board members, who saw Cox as a potential successor to LaPierre, and infuriated political staffers. Some started packing up their desks, unsure of whether they would be ousted too, multiple NRA sources said.


That’s when the Washington power brokers really started to worry. Cox’s departure, after months of turmoil at the NRA, only amplified the sense that the gun-rights group might not be the political powerhouse in 2020 that it has been for decades, including notably in 2016.


When President Donald Trump convened a meeting with bipartisan lawmakers and signaled and openness to some gun control measures in the wake of a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead, it was Cox who showed up at the White House the following evening.


Afterward, Cox tweeted that Trump didn’t want gun control. For his part, Trump tweeted: “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!”


The reservoir of goodwill toward Cox ran deep on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.


“Every Republican senator who matters has Chris’ cell phone number,” one GOP operative who worked closely with Cox on the political side told CNN. “And vice versa.”


The operative recounted one meeting between Cox and a senator, ostensibly about a policy issue, that instead was focused primarily on the senator’s favorite hunting grounds in his home state. Cox knew them all in advance — and had been to them himself.


Cox and his team held weekly calls with Republican committees to share tips about ongoing campaigns — calls that increased in frequency in the lead-up to key primaries and Election Day, according to former officials.
“Senators didn’t call Wayne,” the GOP operative said of LaPierre. “They called Chris.”



That’s partly because it was Cox’s job to maintain those contacts, while LaPierre oversaw the organization. Cox has moved on to launch his own Washington consulting firm. But unease over his departure — and LaPierre’s efforts to consolidate power — is fueling uncertainty about the direction of the organization overall.

 Honestly, from my conversations with others, I don’t think Wayne LaPierre really understood the value of Chris to the campaign side of NRA-ILA. All he could see was a potential rival for power that had to be vanquished. As to the supposed “coup”, I think it is a figment of his imagination as it has been played upon by the NRA’s outside counsel William Brewer III. Witness the gratuitous mention of Chris in one paragraph of the NRA’s lawsuit against Ollie North.

I am going to repeat what I wrote at the beginning of the month:  Wayne LaPierre’s legacy will be as the guy who caused us to lose gun rights in order to preserve his perks if the Republicans fail to hold on to at least one House of Congress and the Presidency. His paranoia and arrogance caused him to listen to the wrong guy and we are all suffering as a result.

Adding to that statement, I would say that those NRA Board members and others who stand 100% behind Wayne will be complicit in this loss of gun rights. They will blame us, they will blame Bloomberg and Soros, they will blame anyone but themselves. The reality is that they did not want to excise what has become a cancer upon the National Rifle Association. Wayne did do good in the past but the past is past and, like with a championship football coach who no longer wins, it is time to move on.

Another Major Departure From NRA-ILA (Updated)

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.

From Politico:

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.

Ouimet Named Interim Head Of NRA-ILA

Jason Ouimet, the NRA-ILA’s Director of Federal Affairs, has been named the interim head of NRA-ILA. The news was first leaked in a story by Danny Hakim in the New York Times who seems to be the go-to guy for NRA leaks. It was later confirmed in a series of tweets by Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon as well as in a memo sent out to all NRA employees.

TO:                All NRA Employees
FROM:          Wayne LaPierre
                       Executive Vice President
DATE:            July 2, 2019
SUBJECT:     Appointment of Interim Executive Director of NRA-ILA


-‑‑‑‑‑—–‑‑‑‑‑‑‑————————————‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑————


I am pleased to announce Jason Ouimet’s appointment as Interim Executive Director of NRA-ILA.


As many of you know, Jason – a 14 year NRA veteran, – currently serves as our Director of Federal Affairs, a position he has held since January 2015. Jason rose through the ranks after being hired as a federal lobbyist in 2005 and then being promoted to Deputy Director at NRA-ILA Federal five years later.


Jason has a strong legislative and campaign background. On Capitol Hill, Jason was a legislative assistant for former Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia) where he was responsible for oversight of significant issues like taxes, Homeland Security appropriations, transportation, small business, Social Security, welfare, science & technology, government affairs, Commerce Justice State appropriations and pensions. He also served as Staff Director of the Life Insurance Caucus of which Senator Chambliss was a co-chair.


Prior to working on Senator Chambliss’ personal staff, Jason held the position of Senior Research Analyst at the National Republican Senatorial Committee working on projects for key Senate races. Jason began his career in 1999 as a Junior Analyst with the Republican National Committee where he conducted field research in Florida, Connecticut, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania for President George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.


Jason is a graduate of Kent State University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree in 1999.


Jason is an experienced government affairs professional and a skilled political strategist. He is committed to our noble cause and I know that he will do very well.


Please join me in congratulating Jason.


Wayne

From what I understand, Ouimet is both well-liked and well-respected within the NRA-ILA. It is rumored that there may be a search committee to find a permanent head of ILA but hopes are that Ouimet would be the leading candidate.

The appointment of an interim head of NRA-ILA shores things up a bit there. That said, it should not be forgotten that NRA-ILA serves two purposes:  lobbying and campaigns. The appointment of Ouimet satisfies the first criteria but fails to fill the huge hole left by the ouster of Chris Cox. Over a period of 24 years, Cox had developed a series of relationships with SuperPACs, PACs, 527s, and other campaign organization as well as a deft touch in coordinating expenditures where it would be most useful in the election of pro-gun – or at least not anti-gun – candidates.

One has to wonder if the triumvirate of Wayne, William Brewer, and the NRA officers took any of that into consideration when they forced the ouster of Cox. Brewer probably didn’t give a damn, the officers were clueless, and it seems all Wayne could see was a potential competitor to his position.

Others in the political world are seeing it very clearly. An article published this morning in Politico reports that both the Trump campaign and the Republicans are worried about the NRA’s “meltdown” just before 2020.

Greg Keller who is the former executive director of the American Conservative Union said:

“No organization has been more important to conservative voter education and engagement than the NRA. We all hope they’re able to mount the kind of effort in the 2020 cycle they have in the past,” said Gregg Keller, a former American Conservative Union executive director. “But in case they can’t, given their current situation, I hope they’re being forthright about that within the movement so others can pick up the slack.”


“The situation,” he added, “has folks nervous.”

Steven Law, head of Mitch McConnell’s SuperPAC, said this about the departure of Chris Cox.

Concerns over the NRA intensified last week after the resignation of Chris Cox, who had been the head of its lobbying arm since 2002. Cox was well-liked by NRA staff and board members and had deep relationships with major donors and many of the party’s top strategists. He recently participated in 2020 planning meetings with the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC and the anti-tax Club for Growth. The groups discussed polling and opposition research, voter registration efforts, and ensuring smooth coordination.


With Cox gone, it’s an open question who will oversee the NRA’s 2020 strategy.


“Chris Cox is the guy everybody dealt with,” said Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely aligned with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Wayne LaPierre’s legacy will be as the guy who caused us to lose gun rights in order to preserve his perks if the Republicans fail to hold on to at least one House of Congress and the Presidency. His paranoia and arrogance caused him to listen to the wrong guy and we are all suffering as a result.

Chris Cox Resigns (Updated)

An email went out this morning to all NRA employees informing them that Chris Cox has tendered his resignation. This is a sad day in the fight for gun rights on Capitol Hill. Chris Cox and the NRA-ILA have been, more or less, effective in keeping the Republicans and some Democrats on the side of gun rights.

Wayne LaPierre’s email is below:

From: “LaPierre, Wayne”
Date: June 26, 2019 at 8:50:14 AM MDT
To: #All NRA Employees <#AllNRAEmployees@nrahq.org>
Subject: Important Announcement

Dear Board Members and NRA Staff,

I wanted to inform you that Chris Cox tendered his resignation as executive director of NRA-ILA. I have accepted it and want to thank Chris for his service to the NRA and for his efforts to advocate for the Second Amendment.

Chris’s action follows our filing of a lawsuit in New York on June 19. Thereafter, I announced that, pending our pursuit of the facts relating to certain allegations contained in that lawsuit, Chris was placed on administrative leave. Naturally, that pursuit will continue in the interest of the NRA and our members.

In the meantime, NRA-ILA continues to benefit from a strong team with deep political experience, valued relationships, and a passion for the Second Amendment. We will make an announcement soon about an interim director of ILA and, in the meantime, continue to position the NRA for great success in the 2020 election season and beyond.

Please join me in wishing Chris and his family the best.

Wayne

That’s nice. Wish Chris and his family the best after he has been stabbed in the back.

One thing that has been mentioned to me is that there is more than a supposed “coup” attempt behind this. The NRA-ILA gave the NRA proper a substantial loan that has not yet been repaid so that they could cover their bills. The loan was made in the 2017 time frame. Now it is rumored that Wayne came back to ILA asking for a loan in the $15 million range and Chris Cox said no. The other person who had the authority to say “no” on behalf of the NRA-ILA was Scott Christman and he is on administrative leave as well.

The interim head of the NRA-ILA is expected to be the former ILA head of state affairs who has been working for the NRA proper for the last few years. The likelihood of him saying “no” to Wayne when asked for a loan is not likely.

UPDATE: If the comments on the Twitter feed of NY Times reporter are any indication, those who are anti-rights are ecstatic. You can read it here.

UPDATE II: Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned has his take on this whole mess. He is one of the few bloggers who goes way back with the NRA. Sebastian and Bitter have always, in my opinion, had good connections within the NRA.

The NRA, The New York Lawsuit, Ollie North, And Chris Cox

The news yesterday regarding the National Rifle Association was headlined by a story in the New York Times that said Chris Cox, head of the NRA-ILA, was suspended and put on administrative leave. This followed a late Wednesday filing in New York Supreme Court (the trial level courts in that state) in which the NRA sought a declaratory judgment that Ollie North was not entitled to his legal expenses as a director of the NRA. Also suspended was Scott Christman who served as Cox’s deputy chief of staff at the NRA-ILA.

Both Cox and Christman are accused along with NRA Board member and former Congressman Dan Boren of participating in a failed “coup” attempt orchestrated by Ackerman McQueen and Ollie North. Cox vehemently denies this.

“The allegations against me are offensive and patently false,” Cox said. “For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization. My efforts have always been focused on serving the members of the National Rifle Association, and I will continue to focus all of my energy on carrying out our core mission of defending the Second Amendment.”

The New York lawsuit was filed on behalf of the NRA by outside counsel William Brewer III and his firm. It seeks a declaratory judgment stating that Ollie North is not entitled to reimbursement for legal fees and expenses incurred as a result of subpoenas in the second Ackerman McQueen lawsuit and the Senate Finance Committee’s request for documents. When a declaratory judgment is sought, it is making a statement that the facts are not in question and that the only thing sought is a declaration as to matters of law. That said, the complaint filed is a mish-mash of allegations that in no way could be considered a 100% recitation of facts. The full complaint is here.

The complaint alleges that North is an employee of Ackerman McQueen, that he had been asked to either resign from AckMac or the NRA board, that he has done neither, and that he orchestrated the “coup” attempt to oust Wayne LaPierre at the behest of AckMac. North is also accused of acting in bad faith and breaching his fiduciary duties to the NRA.

The complaint then includes this gratuitous mention of Chris Cox and Dan Boren. This is the only paragraph where either of these two are mentioned.

North and his co-conspirators orchestrated these threats through, among other
things, a string of text messages that are filed herewith. The text messages were produced in the
Virginia Litigation by Dan Boren, an NRA board member employed by one of Ackerman’s other
major clients, the Chickasaw Nation
. Boren relayed the contents of Ackerman’s threatened letter
to North and helped to choreograph the ultimatum they presented to Mr. LaPierre. Moreover, in
email correspondence transmitted over non-NRA servers, Boren admitted his knowledge that
Ackerman may have been invoicing the NRA for full salaries of employees who were actually
working on the Chickasaw Nation account. The same text messages and email messages
demonstrate that another errant NRA fiduciary, Chris Cox —once thought by some to be a likely
successor for Mr. LaPierre—participated in the Ackerman/North/Boren conspiracy
.

The text message can be seen in this exhibit. It should be noted that from what I’ve been told that exhibits are not usually submitted when asking for a declaratory judgment. Reading the texts between Boren and Cox, I fail to see this as a “coup” attempt. Rather, in my opinion, it seems they are concerned about the war between AckMac and the NRA and its future impact on the NRA. Cox is correct when he calls what had been going on “a tragic mess”.

This whole affair is so Byzantine. It reminds more of a Soviet-style purge where ministers and members of the Politburo are being purged after the head of the KGB whispers in the ear of the aging General Secretary that they are plotting against him. Insert Wayne LaPierre into the role of the aging General Secretary and William Brewer into the role of KGB head and there you have it.

SAF And NRA File Joint Suit Against Washington State Over I-1639

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The Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association have joined together to challenge parts of the recently passed Washington State Initiative 1639 in a federal lawsuit. The initiative contained a laundry list of gun control measures including a definition of an assault weapon (sic) that would include Ruger 10/22s, raised the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21, specified waiting periods, enacted a safe storage provision, includes a $25 tax on each semi-automatic rifle sold, requires law enforcement to verify annually that owners of handguns and semi-auto rifles are legally allowed to own them, and it includes a training requirement.

The initiative was funded in great part by billionaires such as Michael Bloomberg, Nick Hanauer, and the late Paul Allen. The goal, while not state overtly, is to kill out the gun culture in Washington State by making it so onerous and creating such a slippery slope that casual gun owners will just give up. You can hear some thoughts on this from a Washington State resident in Episode 308 of The Squirrel Report podcast.

The lawsuit, Mitchell et al v. State of Washington et al, was filed on Wednesday in US District Court for the Western District of Washington. It is a complaint for both a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief based upon a claim of violations of the Commerce Clause, and the 2nd and 14th Amendment.

The plaintiffs are firearms dealers Daniel Mitchell and Robin Ball, 19 year old competitive shooter Luke Rettmer who is a member of the US Long Range Rifle Under 21 team, 19 year old Army reservist and college student Nathaniel Casey, and recreational shooters Armen Tooloee and Matthew Wald who are 20 and 19 years old respectively. The Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association are the organizational plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit focuses in on four aspects of I-1639 which goes into effect, in part, on January 1, 2019 with the remainder going into effect on July 1, 2019. First, it challenges Section 12 of the Initiative’s ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles to out-of-state residents on the grounds it “impermissibly burdens interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. I § 8 cl. 3.”

Secondly, the lawsuit challenges Section 13 of the Initiative which raises the age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21. It seeks a declaration that “by preventing the sale to otherwise qualified adults under age 21 of certain rifles, impermissibly burdens their exercise of rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.” They are making this claim on behalf of both the Young Adult Plaintiffs and the Organizational Plaintiffs. It is asserted that no state interest justifies this infringement and that the ban is broader than needed to serve any “possible alleged governmental interest.”

Thirdly, the lawsuit contends that the Section 13 of the Initiative “impermissably burdens” the rights guaranteed to the Young Adult Plaintiffs under Article I Section 24 of the Washington Constitution.

Finally, the lawsuit says that the intention of Washington State Attorney General Robert Ferguson to enforce the provisions of I-1639 and will be acting under “color of law”. Thus, Ferguson will be depriving “plaintiffs of civil rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, as applied by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

The plaintiffs seek to have the challenged portions of I-1639 declared unconstitutional and to enjoin enforcement of the entire I-1639 unless the challenged parts are ruled severable, and if so, then enforcement of the challenged parts.

The complaint in its entirety can be found here.

Both the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifle Association have issued releases regarding this lawsuit.

Alan Gottlieb of SAF had this to say:

“We are also considering additional legal challenges,” SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb confirmed. “We are disappointed that too many Evergreen State voters were fooled into supporting this 30-page gun control scheme, despite overwhelming law enforcement opposition. This initiative is an affront to the constitutional rights enshrined in the Second Amendment and the Washington state constitution, especially for young adults.

“We’re determined to fight this egregious measure because constitutionally-protected rights should never be subject to a popularity vote,” he stated. “The wealthy elitists behind I-1639 want to turn a right into a regulated privilege. This measure was only designed to have a chilling effect on the exercise of a constitutional right by honest citizens while having no impact at all on criminals, and we cannot let it go unchallenged.”

Chris Cox of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action had similar comments:

“The NRA is committed to restoring the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding Washingtonian,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA¹s Institute for Legislative Action. “I-1639 violates the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens and puts people at risk. This lawsuit is the first step in the fight to ensure that Washingtonians are free to exercise their fundamental right to self-defense.”…



“The NRA will fight to overturn this unconstitutional initiative. We will not sit idly by while elitist anti-gun activists attempt to deny everyday Americans their fundamental right to self-defense,” concluded Cox.

I, for one, am quite pleased to see the Second Amendment Foundation and the National Rifles Association working together on this lawsuit and not competing with one another for bragging rights. This is the way it should be.

A Judge Who Believes The Rules Matter

It is refreshing to see a state judge who believes the rules matter when it comes to a voter initiative. Thurston County (Washington) Superior Court Judge James Dixon is that kind of judge.

This past Friday he threw out the 300,000 signatures collected on petitions on Initiative 1639 which would entail another round of gun control in Washington State.  Judge Dixon found that the print on the forms was too small to be read and that the petitions did not clearly state what would be the changes in the law. He ordered the Secretary of State’s office to stop certification of the ballot initiative.

Among the things the initiative would do is raise the age to purchase a modern semi-auto sporting weapon including .22 rifles to age 21, require a firearm safety training course, and mandate safe storage. The petition process was started by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility and funded primarily by high tech billionaires such as Paul Allen.

As you might expect, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is appealing this to the Washington State Supreme Court. Moreover, as their CEOs comments make clear they are not happy campers.

“The right of Washingtonians to make changes to our laws via initiative has been part of our state’s history for more than 100 years and is fundamental to the Washington we know today,” (Renee) Hopkins said. “Today’s decision tossed out the signatures of more than 378,000 voters, and undermined the rights of the citizens of this state in favor of the interests of the gun lobby. It’s not right, and we will continue to fight.”

Actually, it was the Alliance for Gun Responsibility’s playing fast and loose with the established rules regarding the form and style of initiative petitions that undermined the petition and not anything the judge did. I guess they thought with all the money that they had the court would just roll over for them.

As you might expect, Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation who sued as a private citizen was very pleased with the result.

“A few billionaires donated millions of dollars to buy the signatures to get this fraudulent initiative on the ballot,” Gottlieb observed. “But they couldn’t buy the Court.”

“The initiative process has no place for deceit and deception,” Gottlieb said. “The so-called Alliance for Gun Responsibility acted totally irresponsible in circulating this initiative to the voters and it not only cost them millions of wasted dollars but their credibility as well.”

The NRA had also sued along with Alan Gottlieb and the ruling is in response to both lawsuits. Chris Cox of the NRA-ILA had this to say:

“The National Rifle Association is glad to see the court today recognized how negligent, if not worse, gun control advocates were in their signature-gathering for this ill-advised ballot initiative,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA-ILA. “We got involved because I-1639 tramples on the rights of Washington state voters, and because the way these anti-gun activists went about pushing their agenda was egregious. We applaud this decision, and will remain vigilant in protecting the constitutional freedoms of all Americans.”

It is good for gun rights to see the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation working together in Washington State. They are also co-plaintiffs in two more lawsuits challenging efforts by Seattle and Edmonds to circumvent the state’s strong preemption laws on firearms regulations.