The National Rifle Association (NRA) is feeling the pain of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week the Virginia-based gun rights operation reportedly layed off 60 employees and slashed the salaries of those that remain.
NRA President, Wayne LaPierre, will take a cut in his $2 million salary but past allegations leave some in the rank and file to wonder. The nation’s oldest civil rights organization has faced numerous public relations problems over the last few years for everything from Mr. LaPierre penchant for $20,000 suits to repeated lawsuits between the NRA and its former public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen.
Politico reports the NRA faces “acute financial challenges” and was forced to cancel its “massive annual meeting” due to the coronavirus outbreak. The event typically garners millions of dollars for the organization through ticket sales, donations and special events.
But the organization’s financial woes did not originate with the national shutdown. Politico’s Betsy Woodruff Swan reports, “The association’s multimillion-dollar legal bills raised concerns among former NRA leaders, though the group’s current leadership has defended the spending. The group has also drawn increasing scrutiny over the past year for other expenses, including tens of thousands of dollars spent on hair and make-up for LaPierre’s wife and six-figure sums spent on the CEO’s travel and wardrobe.”
In question in particular are the lavish lifestyles of LaPierre and his wife Susan at the expense of the NRA. Daily Beast reports that the NRA spent tens of thousands of dollars to bring hair and makeup artists around the country for Susan because she prefers Nashville stylists.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Wayne spent just under $300,000 of the NRA’s funds on Zegna clothing from 2004 to 2017. On two shopping sprees alone, LaPierre spent over $39,000.
Aaron Davis, a former NRA employee, told the New Yorker that more than one insider disapproves of the direction the leader has taken them. Davis told GQ that he recalled taking a board member to lunch to request a donation. ““He just looks at me,” said Davis,” and he goes, ‘You know, I like you, but I hate your department.’ said, ‘Why?’ He says, ‘Because N.R.A. is not fancy Italian shoes with thousand-dollar suits. N.R.A. is the backbone of this country, wearing blue jeans and boots.”
An NRA spokesperson told the Daily Beast that such reporting has been orchestrated by the group’s former public relations firm saying, “This is the latest example of the smear campaign orchestrated to damage those close to the NRA.”
But Steve Hoback, an NRA member and former NRA staffer, told the Daily Beast, there’s more to the criticism than that: He said, “If all of these allegations are true, they are one more example of the climate of living life large on the donations of members … There’s no way that a bouffant ‘do and glittery eyeshadow is going to protect anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”