On Aug. 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit against the NRA (National Rifle Association) that seeks to dissolve the organization, which was first chartered in the state nearly 150 years ago.
According to the suit, senior leadership diverted millions of dollars in donations for their own personal use, which contributed to losses of $64 million over a span of three years. Even amid allegations of misspending, NRA executives received a bump in their salaries. How much were they actually making?
NRA leadership salaries: a look at CEO Wayne LaPierre's yearly income.
The Washington Post, which reviewed the NRA’s tax filings, reported in November that LaPierre received a 57 percent pay raise in 2018, increasing his overall compensation to $2.15 million.
The 70-year-old’s base salary was stated to be $1.3 million, and he received a bonus of $455,000. The remaining $395,000 came from "other reportable compensation."
James claims that LaPierre used $500,000 of the NRA’s money to take lavish trips to the Bahamas, and spent several million on private security for himself and his family. The lawyer argued that the businessman’s alleged actions should prevent him from ever serving on the board of a New York charity again.
"The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets," James said during a press conference. "The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law."
Three other senior employees were named in the lawsuit: Joshua Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff; Woody Phillips, the former treasurer and chief financial officer; and John Frazer, the corporate secretary and general counsel.
An article on The Trace states that membership revenue declined by $35 million a year into Powell’s tenure and that the former retail manager had a history of financial irresponsibility. He was making nearly $800,000 in 2017, according to ProPublica.
A 2019 New Yorker piece revealed that Phillips had been fired from his job at an employee-benefits consulting firm for embezzling at least $1 million before being hired by the NRA, where he worked for 26 years. His salary in 2018 was reportedly $840,284. Frazer’s salary for the same year is listed as $439,468.
Is the NRA a non-profit?
Though it’s headquartered in Northern Virginia, the NRA has been incorporated as a charitable non-profit in New York since 1871, meaning the state’s authorities have the power to oversee its operations.
A PBS article published in May 2019 explains that the attorney general can remove non-profit officers who have "failed to ensure that their organizations follow the rules and behave in a financially sound manner" and can "shut down non-profits that operate for improper or illegal purposes."
President Donald Trump, whose 2016 political campaign received a $30 million boost from the NRA, expressed support for the gun rights advocacy group in a briefing with reporters on Thursday. "That's a very terrible thing that just happened. I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life," he stated.