The NRA finally had the good sense to throw EVP of Operations Josh Powell overboard back in February after a couple of sexual harassment allegations spilled out into public view. If they needed more justification, there was also the utter debacle that was reportedly his brainchild, the ill-fated Carry Guard affinity insurance program that crashed and burned in spectacular fashion, costing the Association tens of millions of dollars in fines and legal fees.
It’s a real mystery that Powell’s time at the NRA ended so badly. As The New Yorker noted, Powell brought his considerable business skills to the Association after running a couple of lifestyle catalogue operations that were most notable for being frequently sued over unpaid bills.
In her recently-filed lawsuit against the Association, New York Attorney General Letitia James targeted four NRA-related individuals for wrongdoing, Powell among them. She claims that a consulting firm, McKenna & Associates that did a significant amount of work for the NRA, hired Powell’s wife as a “consultant,” paying her $30,000 per month.
James claims those payments to Powell’s wife — like LaPierre’s clothing and travel expenses that were allegedly laundered through Ackerman McQueen — were then passed back to the NRA through McKenna’s billings. James also claims that Powell had Ackerman hire Powell’s father as a photographer, again billing the NRA back for the expense. It was allegedly a scheme to funnel cash to Powell’s relatives while sidestepping the NRA’s internal controls and expense approval processes (such as they were).
So Powell may have been cut loose, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy.
From the New York Times:
Josh Powell, one of the group’s highest-ranking former executives, is poised to release “Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America.” Mr. Powell, former chief of staff to Wayne LaPierre, the group’s longtime chief executive, says the N.R.A. is “rife with fraud and corruption” and writes that its finances “are in shambles,” and that “it has operated in the red for the past three years, despite annual revenues of roughly $350 million.”
The book, to be published Sept. 8 by Twelve, a division of Hachette Book Group, will arrive as Mr. LaPierre and the N.R.A. are fighting for their survival.
While those in the anti-gun media and civilian disarmament community can’t wait to pore over Powell’s magnum opus, we’d guess there will be far less here than is being promised (or hoped for by many).
Excerpts from Mr. Powell’s book provide an insider’s view into the N.R.A.
He writes about the day of the 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. — before he had even joined the N.R.A.’s leadership — and describes a conversation with Tony Makris, a senior executive at Ackerman McQueen, which was the N.R.A.’s longtime advertising firm until a bitter legal fight between the two organizations began last year.
“Get ready,” Mr. Powell writes that the executive told him. “This is going to be the mother of all gunfights. It’s really bad. There are still dead kids on the floor. Watch and learn. If we do this right the members will go nuts.”
Mr. Makris, in a statement through his lawyer, said, “A simple Google search will reveal all you need to know about Josh Powell.” Ackerman has previously said in court filings that its executives refused to work with Mr. Powell and accused him of sexually harassing one of its employees; a statement from Mr. Powell’s lawyer said no legal claim regarding harassment had ever been brought. (He was also once the subject of a sex discrimination complaint from an N.R.A. employee.)
After the Newtown massacre, Mr. Powell writes, “membership money and donations were an open spigot,” adding that “if we needed more, Wayne would just pour ‘gasoline on the fire,’ as he put it.”
The organization was working “to create and fuel the toxicity of the gun debate until it became outright explosive,” he writes. “We only knew one speed and one direction: Sell the fear.” He adds, “It worked to excite the most extreme faction of our membership — they ate it up.”
So according to Powell, the NRA girded itself for the fight they knew would come after the horrific Newtown shooting and signed up new members as the Obama administration tried (and failed) to enact new gun control laws in the aftermath.
That jaw-dropping revelation surprises literally no one who’s paid any attention at all to gun rights, politics, or the NRA in the last few decades.
The only news here at all so far is that Powell has taken a presumably big advance from a publisher to produce a ghost-written book that cracks back at LaPierre and the Association he allegedly used to enrich himself and his family.
What’s more than a little curious would be one of the targets of the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit alleging wrongdoing by the NRA publishing a book that purports to expose…wrongdoing at the NRA. That would seem to be counter to his own best interests and something Powell’s attorney wouldn’t allow him to do…if, in fact, the book reveals anything more than garden variety c-suite greed and infighting. That’s why anyone expecting juicy details will probably be disappointed.
So don’t look for much, if anything, that’s actually new or revelatory in ‘Inside the NRA.’ And whatever it may contain, it certainly won’t “break open the gun debate” as the cover art breathlessly promises.
All of the NRA’s insiders already have (or soon will) denounced Powell to anyone who will listen. And that’s not just part of the usual wagon-circling the NRA does so well. Powell was a much-disliked, oleaginous presence at Waples Mill Road ever since LaPierre made the highly questionable and ultimately disastrous decision to bring him in as his toady/functionary in 2016.
The only thing Powell’s book is sure to do is give the NRA’s avowed enemies and legion of detractors something supposedly titillating and salacious to write about so they can continue the story and take a few more shots at the deeply wounded operation.
As if that’s something new.