2019: The Year The Gun Lobby Shot Itself In The D*ck
Lift your glasses and drink a toast to 2019, Wonkers, because this was the year the NRA as we know it died. Oh sure, the gunhumpers lobby is still stumbling around like a dangerous drunk, hurling insults and lawsuits. But the NRA will never again re-establish its stranglehold over American politics. This year, the self-dealing and grift at the core of the organization was laid bare, and now it's just a mad rush for the principals to steal as much as they can before the entire edifice comes crashing down around them. YOU LOVE TO SEE IT!
As is so often the case, we have the ladies to thank for this one. Building on the momentum of last year's March for Our Lives, Shannon Watts and the badass bosses at Moms Demand Action built a network to support candidates who'll fight for gun control. Turns out, parents are really sick of being scared for their kids all the time and don't actually think constant lock down drills and armed teachers is a price worth paying to protect our sacred right to walk around with giant cannons strapped to our hips. Go know!
And while Watts was busy building a social movement, New York Attorney General Letitia James pulled the pin on the grenade that went off inside the organization itself. James had campaigned promising to take on the gun lobby, which is chartered in New York, and shortly after being sworn in James announced she was auditing the NRA's books. This put the gunhumpers on a collision course with their longtime advertising company Ackerman McQueen. Because while the NRA could just cop to illegally failing to report a few hundred thousand dollars worth of "related party transactions" -- like buying ammo from a board member, or secretly paying a fundraising firm owned by a board member's wife -- they couldn't brush off a $40 million annual expenditure to Ackerman. Because that's where they buried all the bodies.
It started with the NRA demanding a full accounting from Ackerman and a disclosure of the company's contract with Oliver North. When North quit his job as a teevee conservative to come be President of the Gun Nuts, he was given a contract with Ackerman to star in a show on NRATV. Ackerman produced the programming in house, passing the costs on to the NRA. Which meant that if the NRA wanted to stay on the right side of Johnny Law, it would need to cough up the details of this particular "related party transaction" on its annual disclosure. When Ackerman refused to produce the contract, the NRA sued, Ackerman countersued, and pretty soon the entire scene had descended into trench warfare.
It was BATSHIT. So, let's count down our ten favorite stories from the Ackerman-NRA storyline this year.
On the eve of the April 27 NRA board meeting, North delivered a letter to the NRA from Ackerman threatening to spill all the NRA's dirrrrty secrets if the organization wouldn't drop the lawsuit and fire Wayne LaPierre. Instead, LaPierre published a letter in the Wall Street Journal accusing Ackerman and North of extortion, then North was immediately fired by the board.
After the NRA called Ackerman's bluff, the media company started dumping details of all the transactions the NRA kept off its books by routing them through the media company and calling them advertising expenses. Like $39,000 in clothes for Wayne LaPierre at Zegna in Beverly Hills on just one day in 2015. And $110,000 in charter flights in January of 2013 alone. And $4,500/month in rent for Wayne's summer intern. And on, and on, and on.
Number 3: NRA's Dana Loesch Got Paid A Million Dollars To Make Videos Watched By A Thousand People Each
Turns out no one was watching Dana Loesch photoshop Klan hoods onto cartoon trains. Sad!
Number 4: Circular Firing Squad At The NRA
Holy shit that day was crazy! The NRA sued Oliver North, saying it wasn't responsible for his legal bills after he went rogue. The NRA booted a bunch of board members, including its chief lobbyist, saying they were in cahoots with North and Ackerman. Ackerman sued the NRA some more, threatening to pull the plug on NRATV if the firm didn't get an immediate $3 million infusion of cash. And the New Yorker's Mike Spies dug up a whole bunch of self-dealing and hinky bookkeeping.
HAHAHAHA! Ackerman went through with it and pulled the plug on its rageboner teevee network. Bye, Dana!
More NRA internal documents were leaked online, including proof that the NRA spent $97,787 every single day of the first quarter of 2019 on legal fees. This prompted board member Allen West to write a blog post calling for Wayne LaPierre's head. Which was hilarious in and of itself, but gave us a chance to remember a delightful scandal from days of yore, when we could LOL innocently at nasty, bigoted congressmen who sent their wives letters demanding, "From now on, you will wear two-piece swim suits when on vacations!" and "Angela, I need to know, are you committed to being my porn star?"
More delicious leaks from Ackerman. This time they spilled the beans on the tens of thousands spent to fly fancy hair and makeup artists in from Nashville to glam up Wayne LaPierre's wife, Susan, at that annual meeting in Indianapolis. Except Wayne panicked after getting the "extortion" letter from North, so instead they hired local talent at the last minute. But by then it was too late to cancel the original booking, which meant they wound up paying twice for the job. Naturally the NRA blamed Ackerman for foisting those elitist cosmetics on Wayne's simply country girl Susan. You bet!
In the least surprising disclosure ever, it turns out the gunhumpers lobby had at least one perv on staff. Which probably goes some way to explaining the insane mountain of legal bills -- the settlements are probably somewhere in there.
Is there anyone less self-aware on Planet Earth than the NRA's CEO complaining to a New York Times reporter about the enormous emotional toll he suffered having to defend his death stick lobby after a string of gun massacres?
"All these horrible tragedies — after every one, Wayne would be the guy going out there in the media," he said, referring to himself in the third person. "From Columbine to — you name it — to the Navy Yard to Aurora to Sandy Hook. Every one of them, I was the guy — Parkland — I was the guy out there in the media." The N.R.A. was "so miscast by the media," he insisted, he saw little reason to engage reporters. "You just didn't get a fair shot anymore."
THAT REALLY HAPPENED.
Before shit went sideways with Ackerman, the NRA was going to buy Wayne and Susan a $5.5 million fake French chateau by a manmade "lake" on a golf course outside Dallas. It was wonderfully, hideously tacky, and they'd already put down a $70,000 earnest money deposit -- routed through Ackerman, natch -- before the deal fell through. This was the most fun thing I wrote all year!
IT WAS A WILD RIDE! Can't wait to watch these filthy bastards tear each other apart in 2020. It's the rare occasion when they really can both lose, and we are so here for it!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.