“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 The Audit Committee, which had approved the arrangement, later rescinded their approval in May 2019 after the conflict between Wayne LaPierre and Col.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.

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.

“His contributions to the NRA have been transformative.”

“Wayne LaPierre’s compensation reflects his enormous contributions to our members and the freedoms for which they fight,” NRA President Carolyn Meadows said in a statement. “His contributions to the NRA have been transformative.”

The statement from Mrs. Meadows come in response to reports in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post about Wayne LaPierre’s reported compensation in 2018. This comes from the not-yet public Form 990. That form is a financial report that all not-for-profits must file with the Internal Revenue Service annually.

The AP reports:

According to the filings, known as 990s, longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s total compensation rose to more than $2 million. His base salary went from $1.17 million to $1.27 million, he received a bonus of about $455,000, and he got about $366,000 from a deferred compensation plan, according to the documents cited in media reports.

The story from the Wall Street Journal notes that revenues rose 13% while expenses rose 7% for the year. It also noted that Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, was paid $13.8 million in legal fees making it that third-largest NRA vendor. The largest vendor for 2018 was, as may be expected, Ackerman McQueen.

Ackerman was the largest outside vendor, having been paid $32 million, plus $6.3 million for out-of-pocket expenses, including media buys and “reimbursement of travel and business expenses.”

Given past reports regarding LaPierre’s use of AckMac to disguise his actual spending, I wonder how much of the reimbursement was for his personal expenses.

In addition to the reports on LaPierre’s compensation was this note in the Washington Post on the monies spent by NRA-ILA.

Spending by the political arm of the NRA dropped from $47.1 million in 2014 to $32.51 million in 2018, the filings show. That was the midterm election in which Democrats took over the House and gun-control groups outspent the gun lobby for the first time.

That is very concerning. The monies spent – or in my opinion, wasted – on Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors, could have been used to support the campaigns of pro-gun candidates.

I will be requesting a copy of the 2018 Form 990 from the NRA Secretary’s Office. I have a feeling that it will contain many more unwelcome revelations.

As to the comment from Mrs. Meadows with which I started this post, I agree with her last sentence. LaPierre has been transformative for the NRA. However, if the last few years are any indication, it is not in the way that Meadows means or that you and I would want.

NOTE: If any of my readers has a copy of the 2018 Form 990 or a link to it, please send to me at jpr9954 AT gmail DOT com.

AckMac’s Counter-claim Makes Interesting Reading

I don’t know which side is telling the truth in the divorce between the NRA and AckMac. It could be neither of them. It could be both sides depending upon their perception of the issues.

I will note that the AckMac description of the influence on Wayne LaPierre by William Brewer III does strongly correlate with what insiders have told me. Brewer was described to have isolated LaPierre from long time friends and associates and fed his paranoia.

That said, the narrative in Ackerman McQueen’s reply and counter-claim filed on October 1st makes for interesting reading. Of particular interest are pages 19 through 42. The rest is mostly legalese. I have embedded it below. If you click on the heading, you can also download it to read later.

Ackerman McQueen Texas Coun… by Stephen Gutowski on Scribd

The Divorce Gets Uglier

The divorce between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen is ugly and is getting uglier. The NRA’s reply to Ackerman McQueen’s reply and counter-claim was filed with the US District Court on Friday. There were a number of news stories yesterday that excerpted parts of the reply with regard to NRATV and its characterization by the NRA as “distasteful” and “racist“.

The reply brought attention to an episode of NRATV featuring Dana Loesch in which she portrayed Thomas the Tank Engine in a KKK hooded robe.

From page 3 of the reply:

As AMc’s bills grew ever larger, NRATV’s messaging strayed from the Second Amendment to themes which some NRA leaders found distasteful and racist. One particularly damaging segment featured children’s cartoon characters adorned in Ku Klux Klan hoods. Unfortunately, attempts by the NRA to “rein in” AMc and its messaging were met with responses from AMc that ranged from evasive to hostile. At the same time, when NRA executives sought performance metrics for NRATV, AMc contrived a pretext to demand that each interlocutor be sidelined or fired. Simultaneously, in closed-door meetings with Mr. LaPierre (which AMc insisted remain “confidential”), the agency presented fabricated and inflated sponsorship and viewership claims. The simple request for the number of “unique visitors” to the site was not answered, despite multiple attempts by Mr. LaPierre and other NRA executives. In fact, AMc’s representations to the NRA leadership regarding the viewership for the digital platform it created, presented, and administered were, by 2017, intentionally (and wildly) misleading. Tellingly, when NRATV finally shut down in June 2019, no one missed it: not a single sponsor or viewer even called, confirming what at least some NRA executives suspected—the site had limited visibility and was failing the accomplish any of its goals.

Ackerman McQueen fired back today on the “distasteful” and “racist” claims in the NRA’s court filing. Like yesterday’s press release, the gloves are off and AckMac is taking no prisoners.

Ackerman McQueen recognized and handled the offensive imagery on the show, “Relentless”, in a proper fashion, like any media company would. We identified those responsible and put new processes and oversight in place. NRA executives acknowledged the corrective action taken by Ackerman McQueen, were satisfied with the response and a couple months later, renewed NRATV for 2019.

However, if the NRA wants to conduct a public conversation about distasteful and racist, they should consider their systematic behavior. This is the same executive leadership team and Board of Directors that refused to address the Philandro Castile tragedy. This the executive leadership team that put their heads in the sand every time a board member said something the could be perceived as distasteful or racist. This is the same executive team and Board of Directors that ignored, and didn’t even watch, the impactful programming that the NOIR team produced, telling important stories on minority issues. There are countless more examples, decisions and comments that plague the organization and will be a part of AMc’s defense.

As AMc said in its latest filing, Wayne LaPierre defrauded Ackerman McQueen. When AMc representatives discovered what he, his executive team as well as the Board of Directors were really doing, and AMc refused to have any part of it, the cabal that is left at the NRA retaliated. Now they want to blame anyone else for the people they actually are.

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AckMac Goes Nuclear On NRA

The NRA filed suit against Ackerman McQueen and some of their employees in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas at the end of August. Ackerman McQueen responded to the lawsuit on October 1st with a counter-claim and added a third party complaint naming Wayne LaPierre. On Friday, the NRA filed an amended complaint. I will get to each of these in a separate post.

Thanks to Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon, we have the press release sent out by AckMac in response to the amended complaint. It takes no prisoners. After saying that Wayne LaPierre defrauded AckMac many times as they declared in their court filing, they go on to say, in part:

LaPierre controlled every aspect of NRATV for which he recruited talent, approved every budget, audited every metric and required ultimate confidentiality. Ackerman McQueen routinely offered and toward the end of the relationship demanded an outside firm audit NRATV performance but LaPierre refused. Unlike the NRA, AMc welcomes full transparency. LaPierre’s apparent paranoia and lust for secrecy fed his justification for private air travel, luxury hotels and countless other expenses for himself, his family and friends that were all paid by member dues.

The membership is being misled. The NRA is pouring tens of millions of non-profit funds into lawyers and lawsuits to cover up the abject failure of executive and board leadership. They continue to contrive allegations that they are not currently proving and will continue to not be able to prove in any legal setting. Instead they grovel at the feet of the media they used to decry, hoping to create some spin for Wayne LaPierre.

The latest NRA legal filing is another cynical attempt to distract from Wayne LaPierre’s documented mismanagement of the organization and the captive board’s complicit behavior. These collective failures are the only reason the NRA faces multiple state attorneys general investigations, a US Senate Finance Committee investigation, calls for the IRS and FBI to investigate, a class-action lawsuit and countless legal disputes filed by the NRA intended to intimidate anyone who opposes LaPierre’s reported misuse of NRA resources.

Damn!

Given that AckMac helped build the image of Wayne LaPierre from the 1990s onwards, I suspect they know more about Wayne than most do or want to know. If we needed any more proof that the symbiotic relationship between Wayne and AckMac is over, we now have it.