For the embattled National Rifle Association, locked in legal action with its long-time advertising firm, under pressure in New York State, reeling from reports about lavish spending and the departure of Lt. Col. Oliver North (USMC-Ret.) as president several weeks ago, a lengthy report in the Washington Free Beacon showing rebounding dues revenues in 2018 comes as good news.
According to the Free Beacon, using data from NRA’s annual report, the association “and its associated groups saw a sizable increase of both membership dues and contributions in 2018.” In 2017, NRA dues revenues were reportedly $128,209,303. Last year, that figure went up to $170,391,374, or approximately 33 percent, the report said.
This comes just days after the Wall Street Journal reported that longtime advertising and public relations firm Ackerman McQueen had announced it was severing ties with the NRA. Trouble began brewing several weeks ago when NRA sued the firm in a dispute over expenditures and records access. Now both sides are suing one another, according to the Daily Beast.
In the middle of this brouhaha, North resigned as president as the group’s annual meetings began in Indianapolis in what has been described in some reports as a failed “coup attempt” to unseat veteran CEO Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president. It was revealed that North had a contract with Ackerman McQueen, and the rumor mill went into overtime as observers tried to decide who was right and who was wrong.
Several NRA members called for answers and even a change in leadership during the annual meetings, and in the aftermath.
The Oklahoma-based advertising firm issued a statement earlier this week, published online today by KWTV News 9 in Oklahoma City:
“Today, faced with the NRA’s many inexplicable actions that have constructively terminated the parties’ Services Agreement, Ackerman McQueen decided it is time to stand up for the truth, and formally provide a Notice to Terminate its almost four-decade long relationship with the National Rifle Association.
“Over the last very difficult year, the NRA’s chaos led us to lose faith in the organization’s willingness to act on behalf of the NRA’s mission. We implored everyone involved to stay true to the NRA membership. In return, we were attacked in frivolous lawsuits and defamed with made-up stories that were then cowardly peddled to the media. Our employee’s rights to privacy were challenged by a determination to drag false allegations into the public with leaks and innuendo. The intent was to make us afraid. We will never fear the truth.
“The NRA has been a powerful force to protect the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans. For 38 years we were with them, as we are with all of our clients, to serve their mission. The turmoil the NRA faces today was self-inflicted. It could have been avoided. We deeply regret that it wasn’t.”
That statement got a swift response from NRA counsel William A. Brewer III, according to Adweek, which quoted the attorney:
“Given the scrutiny it is facing in multiple lawsuits, it is not surprising that Ackerman now attempts to escape the consequences of its own conduct…The NRA believes that when confronted with inquiries about its services and billing records, Ackerman not only failed to cooperate—it sponsored a failed coup attempt to unseat Wayne Lapierre (sic). The NRA alleges that Ackerman not only attempted to derail an investigation into its conduct, but unleashed a smear campaign against any who dared to hold the agency accountable.”
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So the Free Beacon’s story, authored by watchdog reporter Stephen Gutowski, may arrive at a good time to quell some concerns about the association’s finances, or perhaps not. According to the report, “the NRA and its affiliates brought in $412,233,508 in 2018. That’s up from $378,122,489 in 2017. In total, the group’s revenue rose $34,111,019 or 9 percent. The numbers represent a clear resurgence of funding for the gun-rights group during 2018. Membership dues even topped those the group saw in 2016—$163,517,961.”
One reason for the surge could have been the mid-term election cycle, and since Democrats regained control of the U.S. House, and about two dozen Democrats are now running for the party’s 2020 nomination to challenge President Donald Trump—all with anti-gun planks in their platforms—that membership could remain healthy.
Nationally, many gun owners have expressed serious misgivings about the NRA’s troubles, including allegations about lavish spending by LaPierre on travel and clothing, but that is tempered by the fact that they realize NRA is the proverbial “800-pound gorilla” when it comes to politics. And 2020 is shaping up to be a do-or-die election as Trump has been appointing conservative, and ostensibly pro-Second Amendment judges to the federal courts. If he remains in office another four years, he could have the opportunity to fill one or two more vacancies on the Supreme Court, provided Republicans retain control of the Senate. If they regain the House, that could result in legislative victories affecting the country for generations to come.
A lot of people depend upon the NRA to make that happen.
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