The National Rifle Association is attempting to fundraise off of the novel coronavirus outbreak by ginning up fears about gun rights. The fundraising pitch comes as the NRA faces financial difficulties and staff cuts following years of alleged financial impropriety within the organization.
The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the group’s lobbying arm, recently posted a fundraising pitch to members that tried to fearmonger about people losing their Second Amendment rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. The plea claims that “anti-gun lawmakers are exploiting” the pandemic “to deny you and your loved ones your fundamental right to self-defense,” adding that “all of this is happening against a backdrop of reported prisoner furloughs and law enforcement only arresting for the most serious of crimes.” The statement includes a link to donate to the NRA-ILA and states, “We understand times are tough. But, if you have the means, please help us keep fighting against those politicians who are determined to strip away our right to self-defense and their billionaire backers.”
In a March 23 email sent to the board of directors that was obtained by Newsweek, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre announced that the group would be cutting salaries at all levels by 20%, moving to a four-day work week for some employees, and eliminating some positions “while maintaining current workloads.” In the email, LaPierre claimed the organization faces “extraordinary challenges” because of the COVID-19 outbreak and acknowledged that he doesn’t know how long the pay cuts will last. LaPierre instructed eligible employees to seek aid from “state or federal” agencies.
Despite the NRA’s effort to blame its financial problems and subsequent salary cuts on the pandemic, leaked documents and court records from its several multimillion dollar lawsuits with its former ad agency show numerous ways the NRA had been allegedly mismanaging its finances long before the outbreak.
On April 17, 2019, The Trace in partnership with The New Yorker outlined a “desperate” financial situation at the NRA which caused the organization to raise membership dues twice in two years while also cutting free coffee and water coolers for employees. According to the report, the NRA in recent years “has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars” and “a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders” have received “hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements.” A month later, leaked documents showed that the NRA footed the bill for LaPierre’s extravagant shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, where he spent as much as $39,000 in a single day, among other luxury expenses.
Last July, The Washington Post reported that LaPierre and his wife often flew by private plane, supposedly for security reasons, and that two of these trips cost the NRA nearly $70,000. In August, it was reported that the NRA spent tens of thousands of dollars flying Nashville-based makeup artists around for LaPierre’s wife, who serves as co-chair of the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum. The Washington Post also reported in August that the NRA discussed purchasing a $6 million mansion for LaPierre following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but the purchase didn’t go through.