This Was Supposed To Be The Big Day for Josh Powell

If you had been paying any sort of attention to the mainstream media, you might know that today was the day that Josh Powell’s tell-all book was to be released. The book entitled, Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia within the Most Powerful Political Group in America, is supposed to tell us the inside scoop about Wayne and company.

Amazon is running this as the blurb for the book:

A shocking exposé of rampant, decades-long incompetence at the National Rifle Association, as told by a former member of its senior leadership.

Joshua L. Powell is the NRA–a lifelong gun advocate, in 2016, he began his new role as a senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

What Powell uncovered was horrifying: “the waste and dysfunction at the NRA was staggering.”

INSIDE THE NRA reveals for the first time the rise and fall of the most powerful political organization in America–how the NRA became feared as the Death Star of Washington lobbies and so militant and extreme as “to create and fuel the toxicity of the gun debate until it became outright explosive.”

INSIDE THE NRA explains this intentional toxic messaging was wholly the product of LaPierre’s leadership and the extremist branding by his longtime PR puppet master Angus McQueen. In damning detail, Powell exposes the NRA’s plan to “pour gasoline” on the fire in the fight against gun control, to sow discord to fill its coffers, and to secure the presidency for Donald J. Trump.

ABC News’ Pierre Thomas had an exclusive interview with him. It was so earth-shattering that they ran it on Friday on World News Tonight, on Sunday with George Stephanopolous, and again on Monday on GMA.

Powell described himself as a “huge Second Amendment supporter” with a sizable gun collection and a lifelong passion for hunting and shooting. As the NRA’s “No. 2 guy,” he said he “worked side by side” with LaPierre over several years. An NRA spokesperson, in a statement, said that Powell “had zero input or influence on the NRA’s political or legislative strategy,” but Powell says he was involved in “every single important conversation that went on in the NRA.”

But he became disillusioned with the organization and LaPierre’s leadership, he said, as LaPierre’s alleged misuse of members’ money came into focus. Powell says his work became “soul-sucking,” and he now considers it a “low point in [his] life.”

Danny Hakim of the New York Times reported that Powell is now calling for red flag laws and universal background checks.

A hunter since childhood and former Chicago options and derivatives trader, Mr. Powell says that the N.R.A. has fundamentally lost its way, abandoning “its roots as an organization focused on gun safety and education.” That has led it to limit its own long-term membership growth, he argues, by turning its back on the majority of gun owners who support background checks.

With this kind of build up plus dishing all the dirt on Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, you would think the New York Times Review of Books would give it a glowing review just to get Powell’s narrative out there.

And…you would be mistaken.

The review of the book was brutal. It starts off with this:

This is a sad book, and a bad one, and you shouldn’t buy it. The thinking in it is poor; the writing is worse. The author “exposes” evils that, if you’ve been paying even scant attention, you already know. Expect it soon in a Walmart remainder bin near you.

I had always assumed that Powell had a ghostwriter. Given the review of the writing style, I might be mistaken on that. Either that or he had the worst ghostwriter that money could buy.

It gets worse.

The unrelenting barrage of clichés is worse. The N.R.A. has debased the American language, and Powell adds to the sludge. If you only skimmed this book, you would think it was about a fox in a henhouse who caught flak and was thrown under a bus for playing laser-focused hardball like gangbusters and getting the short end of the stick while sensing blood in the water.

It concludes:

Powell’s book is a mea culpa. About the N.R.A.’s Kool-Aid, he writes, “I sold it, stirred it, drank it every day.” He lost his soul, he writes, and became part of the swamp. He’d like, he claims, again unconvincingly, to see the N.R.A. largely return to its roots as an organization dedicated to gun safety.

The N.R.A., in this telling as in others, is an organization in free fall. About New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, who has taken existential aim at the N.R.A., he writes, “I’m not betting against her.”

Bearing in mind that Powell is one of the four named defendants in the suit brought by Letitia James and because he appears to be a sociopath willing to do anything to save his own skin, I’m guessing he has already rolled over and is providing James all the gossip.

You might remember I noted that Powell’s attorney is a partner at Akin Gump. I had wondered how a guy without a job could afford such an expensive attorney. Five years ago the reported partner billing rate for the firm was over $1,200 per hour and undoubtedly is higher now. I might have an explanation for that. A friend who is a DC attorney said that lots of the big DC firms will take cases like this pro bono in exchange for the publicity.

It is either that or perhaps a former big city mayor who hates the NRA enough has decided to foot the bill so that even more dirt about the NRA is released just prior to the election. Nah, that would make me look like a conspiracy theorist or something.

Finally, if you are wondering how such an incompetent grifter ever got hired to a high position at the NRA, my sources say that the blame falls on Pete Brownell and Wayne’s former BFF Tony Makris. Sometime after Powell was elected to the NRA Board of Directors, they pitched him to Wayne as someone for his executive team. The rest is history as the saying goes.

Brewer Represents NRA But Not LaPierre?

All the filings for the lawsuit brought by the Attorney General of New York seeking dissolution of the NRA are online. You can see when the individual defendants were served and in what manner.

Both Josh Powell and Wilson “Woody” Phillips had their attorneys file a “stipulation of service” which also granted them time to respond. This was done two weeks ago. Interestingly, they each have hired attorneys with big name firms. Powell’s attorney is Mark MacDougall who is a partner with Akin Gump in DC and was formerly a Federal prosecutor. Likewise, Phillips’ attorney Seth Farber, a partner with Winston Strawn in New York, was also a former Federal prosecutor.

John Frazer was personally served at home in Virginia two weeks ago. The description of the person accepting the service fits that of John Frazer himself.

Here is where it gets interesting. It seems Wayne LaPierre and/or his security guards not only refused service at both the office and his home in Great Falls, Virginia, but is not being represented by Bill Brewer.

Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon noticed that in this filing that was done this past Saturday. He posted about it on Twitter earlier this evening. If you double-click on the embedded tweet you can see the filing. Look at paragraph 2.

Regardless of who is or will be Wayne’s attorney, I really don’t think the judge presiding over the case will look too kindly on the petulant manner in which Wayne and his henchmen treated the process server. The other three individual defendants accepted service politely or had their attorneys reach out to accept it.

Quote Of The Day

I read a most interesting article by Anthony DeWitt in Richochet. It concerned the suit brought by NY Attorney General Letitia James to dissolve the NRA. It is entitled “Wayne’s World is Crumbling”.

DeWitt, like many of us, is pretty angry the NRA’s future has been put in jeopardy thanks to Wayne LaPierre and his cronies. As he notes, nothing has been proved yet and it is still a list of allegations. Nonetheless, he is feeling used and abused by Wayne and his crowd of grifters and has no problem with James taking them to task.

The meat of the issue which DeWitt points out is just whom is the victim.

If the smoke proves to be from a fire, and the mirrors turn out to be a true reflection of the leadership of the NRA, then I have no quarrel with her taking on LaPierre and his alleged co-conspirators who have allegedly defrauded the membership. I have no quarrel with her investigation demonstrating that the NRA Board of Directors is little more than a bunch of chained and costumed characters in an S&M bondage flick. But let’s remember, they defrauded the membership, not the state of New York, and the membership is not perpetrator, they’re the victim. What the NY AG proposes is, in fact, just shooting everyone.

DeWitt is correct. The victim here are the 5 million members of the NRA whose dues and donations have provided a very nice lifestyle for a bunch of grifters and hanger’s on.

James Seeks NRA Dissolution

While there was some speculation earlier today that NY Attorney General Letitia James’ “national announcement” would have to do with President Trump. That was wrong. The original speculation was that it had to do with the NRA was correct.

James has moved to dissolve the NRA in NY Supreme Court for New York County. She has an 18 point, 169 page complaint which includes claims that Wayne LaPierre, Josh Powell, Woody Phillips, and John Frazer have violated their fiduciary duty.

James in her press conference said that she will be forwarding information to the Internal Revenue Service regarding the NRA’s non-profit status. As to freezing assets of both the named individuals and the organization as a whole that is included in the complaint. When asked if she will be seeking criminal charges, James said the investigation is ongoing and any criminal charges will be referred to Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr. if necessary. James also denied that bringing this dissolution action has anything to do with her personal views on “gun violence” and is only seeking to enforce New York charity law.

James, in her press release, says the resolution she seeks is:

As a result of all the allegations mentioned above, Attorney General James seeks to dissolve the NRA; asks the court to order LaPierre, Phillips, Powell, and Frazer to make full restitution for funds they unlawfully profited and salaries earned while employees; pay penalties; recover illegal and unauthorized payments to the four individuals; remove LaPierre and Frazer from the NRA’s leadership (Phillips and Powell are no longer employed by the NRA); and ensure none of the four individual defendants can ever again serve on the board of a charity in New York.

You can watch the full announcement below. I will be scanning through the court filing in an effort to provide a digest later today.

Personal Insecurity And NRA Election Rigging

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 force out Ollie North as NRA President and continue to harass him in court. Ollie, a long time board member, didn’t want to be a mere figurehead and that was a threat to Wayne.

We watched him accuse Chris Cox of treason based upon innocuous phone texts. Chris had long been seen as the heir apparent when Wayne retired. It led to Chris resigning instead.

We have watched him use subpoenas as a threat against both board members and outsiders.

We have watched him take private planes and try to have the NRA buy him a mansion in Dallas because he was afraid for his personal safety despite his bodyguards.

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.

“Will No One Rid Me Of This Meddlesome Priest?”

The quote in the title is attributed to King Henry II of England with reference to his dispute with Thomas a’Becket who was the Archbishop of Canterbury. In response, four Norman knights traveled from Normandy to Canterbury, confronted Thomas, and ultimately killed him. The murder in 1170 was later made into plays by T. S. Eliot and Jean Anouilh as well as a movie with Richard Burton.

This is not meant to be a history or literature lesson. Rather a lawsuit by the NRA against Oliver North in NY Supreme Court, County of Albany made me think of that quote.

I could almost hear Wayne LaPierre saying, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome president.” To which, William Brewer III replied, “I will, my liege!”

The complaint, much of which is redacted, seeks to have Oliver North removed from the NRA Board of Directors. According to a footnote, they redacted much of the complaint because it might contain information that Col. North might argue should be kept under seal.

The complaint alleges that Col. North has an “irreconcilable conflict” due to his employment with Ackerman McQueen and his membership on the Board of Directors. The Audit Committee, which had approved the arrangement, later rescinded their approval in May 2019 after the conflict between Wayne LaPierre and Col. North had come to a head.

The NRA is seeking a declaration that Col. North’s refusal to terminate his employment with Ackerman McQueen “was an election by him to terminate his NRA Board membership.” Here is where I might note that Col. North was the leading vote-getter in the 2019 NRA Board of Director election.

The attorneys bringing he lawsuit on behalf are Svetlana Eisenberg and William Brewer III of Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors.

When Pete Brownell resigned as President of the NRA in 2018, a great effort was made to get Col. North to be President. At the time, he was under contract to Fox News and would have to resign that in order to become NRA President. I have been told by multiple insiders as well as have seen in court filings that Wayne LaPierre actually negotiated Col. North’s contract with Ackerman McQueen. The whole “they won’t give us the contract” so we can know what conflicts Ollie has is a charade as is the declaration by the Audit Committee.

In reality, the conflict is between Wayne LaPierre, his cronies on the Board, and his attorney who is sucking the NRA dry and those who wanted to return the NRA to effectiveness and to see Brewer gone.

The NRA’s Lack Of A Succession Plan

Healthy organizations have succession plans. Good leaders make it a priority. Development of future leaders is such an organizational imperative that it is usually under the purview of the CEO. Having a succession plan is both forward looking and a measure of risk management.

Think how many corporations and non-profits have lost their chief executives to heart attacks, cancer, and accidents. The list goes on and on.

This has been at the back of my mind regarding the NRA for a long time now. What brought it to the forefront was a post by Jeff Knox on the lack of new leadership options for the NRA and its cloudy future.

For almost a decade I’ve been asking people in the firearms and Second Amendment community to seriously consider who might take over as Executive Vice President of the NRA if Wayne LaPierre were to retire or be hit by a bus.

About 6 years ago I got really serious about that question and was raising the issue in my regular columns, then 3 and a half years ago, after the election of Donald Trump, there was talk that Wayne might be offered some sort of position within the Trump administration, and I was very actively asking people for suggestions of possible successors, or at least the qualities a successor would need in order to be successful and keep the NRA strong. Finally, last year all sorts of accusations of financial improprieties and self-dealing among LaPierre and other NRA executives, broke in major media, and a lot of people began asking the same questions I’d been asking for years, but the same answer kept coming back… Crickets.

Let’s look at the people that Jeff notes have been seriously mentioned as potential successors as Executive VP and CEO of the NRA.

Chris Cox.

Out. Through the machinations of either Wayne LaPierre or his erstwhile Rasputin, William Brewer III, Chris was labeled as having been a part of a “coup attempt”. This was always strongly denied by Chris and he eventually resigned.

Ollie North.

Out. Again, was accused of plotting to overthrow Wayne and again the fine hand of William Brewer III seems to have been involved. This happened after Ollie started asking too many questions especially with regard to Brewer. Wayne portrayed this as “extortion“.

Kyle Weaver.

Out. Weaver was the Executive Director of General Operations who got replaced by Josh Powell. He is now the President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Weaver had spent 18 years with the NRA in positions of ever increasing responsibility. The RMEF gets a 4 star rating from the Charity Navigator which is the highest possible. By contrast, the NRA is under a “concern advisory” from them.

If you need an example of a corporation that had good succession planning, look at General Electric. It has been the focus of many case studies on how to do succession planning. Jack Welch who served as CEO of GE for 20 years was known for grooming potential successors. He did such a good job that those who lost out on succeeding him at GE where snapped up by other companies.

It isn’t just the CEO who should be responsible for succession planning. Professor Ram Charan who taught at both Harvard Business School and Northwestern University, had this to say on succession planning.

A CEO or board that has been in place for six or seven years and has not yet provided a pool of qualified candidates, and a robust process for selecting the next leader, is a failure. Everyone talks about emulating such best practitioners as General Electric, but few work very hard at it.

By all objective measures, the NRA Board of Directors has failed. They have no succession plan for Wayne. The majority of the board has kow-towed to Wayne and jumped when he said jump.

Part of the reason the board fails is structural and part is due to the composition. The structural issue is that the Board of Directors is too damn large to be effective. The other issue is that many on the board are there due to either celebrity status or allegiance to Wayne. It is the latter that is the greater problem. The board owes a duty of loyalty to the organization and not to any one individual.

In the short run, nothing can be done about the size of the board. However, the board can still start to work on a succession plan to Wayne. Based upon Wayne’s age of 70 alone, this needs to be done. My fear is that the board will do as it has always done. That is do nothing and the organization will continue to suffer while our blood enemies grow stronger.

Josh Powell And NRA Have Split

While it was reported yesterday that Josh Powell was on administrative leave from the NRA, it now appears that their employment relationship has been severed. The initial report was based upon court filings by Ackerman McQueen in Alexandria Circuit Court.

Newsweek is reporting that an email was sent this evening to the members of the Board of Directors informing them that Powell was gone.

From Newsweek:

However, according to an internal email obtained by Newsweek, Powell has departed the NRA entirely.

It was not clear whether Powell was fired or if he resigned. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The email clarifying the nature of Powell’s departure was sent to the board of directors Saturday evening by the NRA’s general counsel John Frazer.

“Several directors have reported receiving media queries regarding Josh Powell and his employment status with the Association,” he wrote. “For the sake of clarity, we note that Josh is no longer employed by the NRA.”

In noting the sensitivity of discussing personnel matters, Frazer made reference to “the assortment of pending and threatened litigation” facing the gun-rights group.

The Newsweek article also raised a question that someone asked me on Twitter this evening: how did Ackerman McQueen know or find out that Powell had been placed on leave?

Save the Second raised some interesting questions regarding the termination of Powell’s employment with the NRA.

From their Facebook post:

 1. Why, specifically?

2. Was this a move against Wayne’s wishes/protection?

3. Was there an insultingly generous severance package to add insult to injury after his disastrous tenure as an overpaid executive that didn’t seem to do anything right?

4. Will the problems he and his decisions/appointments caused in the NRA’s Education & Training Division be undone ?

Given that it will be classified as a personnel matter, I think the whys and wherefores of his termination may never be fully known. Moreover, unless either Wayne or one of his inner circle talks, we won’t know the answer to number 2.

We may have to wait until the Meeting of Members at the Annual Meeting in Nashville to find out if any severance package has been paid. If then.

Only time will tell if the problems Powell caused in Education and Training will be solved.

Hat Tip: Save the Second for the Newsweek article

AckMac Court Filing Noting Josh Powell’s Administrative Leave

Below is the Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Provide Meaningful and Supplemental Answers to Interrogatories. This was filed on January 23rd by attorneys for Ackerman McQueen in their legal battle with the National Rifle Association. It covers both the first and second lawsuit filed by the NRA against AckMac in City of Alexandria Circuit Court.

This is where we first learned the Wayne LaPierre’s Chief of Staff Josh Powell was on Administrative Leave. As far as I know, it had not been public knowledge before that.

There is a lot of legalese in these pages but a scan through them does give the reader a sense of the battle between the two former allies.

There is also the amusing line of Q&A indicating that Wayne was upset that someone at AckMac told the Wall Street Journal his grandniece had drawn on the walls of The Four Seasons with crayons.

2020.01.22_Ack MTC Rog Responses by jpr9954 on Scribd

Hat Tip – Beth for the document

Voted Most Likely

Courtesy of Patrick Henry HS

Most senior class superlatives are voted on before you actually graduate from high school. The young man above, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School, Class of 1967, was given a superlative long after graduation.

According to Dan Casey, a pundit with the Roanoke Times, he was awarded the Best Pay Raise for a Patrick Henry High School Graduate.

If the young man looks somewhat familiar, picture him at age 70 wearing frameless glasses and a very expensive navy blue suit.