David Dell’Aquila is the National Rifle Association megadonor who became disillusioned with the Association the more he found out about how it operates. He then began a dissident movement to withhold planned donations from the NRA in order to force a clean-up in Fairfax. He eventually went so far as to file a multi-million dollar class-action lawsuit against the NRA and NRA Foundation on behalf of the membership over dues and donated funds that were allegedly diverted or misused.
Last week, of course, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that she’d filed suit against the NRA seeking repayment of tens of millions of dollars that had been paid to EVP and CEO Wayne LaPierre and others in power, as well as the dissolution of the organization. The NRA’s reaction to the attack has Dell’Aquila shaking his head.
The NRA — which incurred legal and other costs of over $100 million in 2018 and 2019 — counter-sued Attorney General James. LaPierre then announced to the Association’s board of directors that the NRA (which he called “well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance”) would fight James tooth and nail.
In other words, look for tens of millions more of the members’ dues and donors’ dollars to be spent on lawyers.
Here’s the email that was sent to the board last week from John Frazer, one of the named targets in James’ lawsuit:
Dell’Aquila thinks fighting another long, expensive legal battle is a colossal waste of the Association’s precious time and money. He acknowledges that James’s (and Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s) lawsuit is a transparent, politically-timed attack. As he sees it, James probably had enough evidence last year to move against the NRA. In fact, he intends to FOIA her office for evidence of the politics behind the timing.
That said, he’s under no illusions about the basis for the lawsuit. As he said, there’s plenty of “fraud, financial abuse, mismanagement, and greed” that the AG has undoubtedly uncovered. Statements from LaPierre supporters like NRA President Carolyn Meadows calling the suit a “baseless, premeditated” attack are ridiculous on their face.
As Dell’Aquila sees it — and his own examination of the org’s operations has revealed — there’s simply too much smoke swirling around Waples Mill Road for there to be no fire.
Dell’Aquila’s biggest complaints remain thus:
- A $17 Million post-employment contract for LaPierre.
- Current board members have allowed LaPierre et al. to bring it to its current weakened state.
- $165 million in planned giving have been held back and the NRA Board has done nothing.
- The NRA intends to fight back, filing its own suit against NY Attorney General and state officials. Where is the oversight from the Board?
- Only an incompetent board would allow LaPierre and his management team to unnecessarily waste millions more on legal fees.
- LaPierre’s email to the board is financially irresponsible, continuing to spend money on the lawsuits, especially since the AG stated that they are currently $36 Million in the red.
In Dell’Aquila’s view, given the current financial state of the Association and still more expensive, drawn-out legal battles in the future, the board must do the following:
- EVP and CEO LaPierre as well as John Frazer, the NRA’s Secretary and General Counsel, must be put on administrative leave while the case is pending. Both are named in the New York lawsuit and having them remain in their positions where they can make use of the NRA’s resources to defend themselves is a conflict of interest.
- The NRA should negotiate with the New York AG over the $64 million in repayments she’s seeking, come an agreement, and write a check. Given the $100 million litigation has already cost the Association and LaPierre’s stated willingness to fight the James and Racine suits to the bitter end, it’s far better to bite the bullet and make the repayment than sink even more time and money into what’s likely to be a losing battle.
- The NRA should announce it will voluntarily dissolve its New York charter, as James’s lawsuit seeks, and re-charter itself in a friendlier state. Dell’Aquila said that the Association had been advised to do that as long ago as the late 1990’s, but the move was nixed by LaPierre.
- The newly reconstituted NRA should reduce the size of its board to 15 seats, small enough and powerful enough to provide real, effective oversight of the Association’s management. Each seat should represent a group of states so that every region of the country is represented.
Does Dell’Aquila expect the NRA to adopt any of his recommendations? Let’s just say he isn’t holding his breath.
Dell’Aquila has already said that LaPierre need to go, but he has purged the board of any dissenters and the current structure, with a whopping 76 board members, makes forcing his hand difficult at best. It’s not in LaPierre’s (or attorney William Brewer’s) interest to follow Dell’Aquila’s advice, no matter how much (fiscal or operational) sense it may make.
Wayne has, in so many words, pledged to fight to the Association’s last dollar and he may do just that.