“A heinous act of mass murder — either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago — will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.” ~ Wayne LaPierre, NRA EVP/CEO, from a 2013 op-ed

The 10,000 square foot mansion the LaPierres wanted the NRA to purchase for them in 2018

“They’re sending out requests for money, saying they might go bankrupt in their legal fight with New York. They’re going through all of this drama of saying they need money, while they are spending money on all these things that can’t even be justified.” ~ ROB PINCUS, Gun Rights Advocate

Saturday evening, sunny, and warm, 83 degrees.

I’ve been working on this post since this morning, and it’s now after 8 p.m., so I’m dog tired and hurt all over. Just thought I’d share that tidbit.

NRA Insignias/Getty Images

So you are a proud member of the NRA. Fine, truly. It’s your right as an American citizen to belong to anything you choose. I may not agree with you, but that’s my right as an American citizen. We get to disagree about things. Again, a free and open society allows for that. Here’s hoping we continue to be a free and open society for many years to come, a society that endorses freedom of the press and your right to be a safe gun owner.

But allow me to elucidate for you a few NRA facts about which you may be unfamiliar, a few facts about exactly how the NRA spends your membership dues. You may be surprised . . . or maybe not. But first, a few background facts about the organization.

“It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house . . .” ~ Lt. Col. Allen West, Ret., NRA Board Member, in a blog post (May 14, 2019)

NRA Background Information:

  • The NRA was co-founded in 1871 by William Conant Church and Captain George Wood Wingate. Prior to 1970, the organization was primarily non-partisan, but during the 1970s it became increasingly aligned with the Republican party.
  • This nonprofit group (501c4) has an annual revenue of around $400 million and enjoys tax-exempt status as a “social welfare” organization. As such, it is not required to disclose its donors. It is, however, required to file a tax return declaring its revenue sources, which includes membership dues.
  • Wayne LaPierre was appointed executive vice president in 1991 and still serves as CEO. But did you know that LaPierre’s early career included working for Democratic lawmakers in Virginia? Irony, huh?
  • Nine US presidents have been NRA members. In addition to Grant, they are: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (who resigned in 1995), and Donald Trump. Three US vice presidents, two chief justices of the US Supreme Court, and several US congressmen, as well as legislators and officials of state governments are members.
  • NRA membership dues after 2018 hike: Regular membership fees when not running promotions: annual $45, two-year $75, three-year $100, five-year $150 and lifetime memberships $1500, 60 monthly payments of $25 (Interestingly, these rates differ depending upon which site you are exploring, but I got my information directly from the NRA site.)
  • Since 2013, the NRA has cited is membership as being around 5 million.
  • According to Newsweek and multiple sources, the NRA’s membership typically gets a boost after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Connecticut.
  • The NRA received twice as much money from nearly five times as many donors in the seven days after the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting than it did in the seven days before the shooting.
  • Even though a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the days after February’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting showed 97 percent of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks for gun purchases, the NRA still opposes such legislation.
  • According to Rick Newman on Yahoo Finance: The NRA’s political spending takes two forms: money spent on lobbying, and money spent on elections, whether direct donations to candidates or spending on their behalf through a political-action committee. Required disclosure forms show spending of $5.1 million on lobbying and $54 million on elections, or $59.1 million total.
  • According to an article by Mike Spies in The New Yorker, the NRA has “reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, but it has substantially increased its spending on messaging.”
  • The NRA receives most of its income—$164 million in 2016—from dues paid by its  members, and contributions, including money donated to its political-action committees, brought in another $104 million in 2016.
“I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants . . . ” ~ Andy Lander, former NRA employee of 13 years in an open letter

Facts of which you may be unaware regarding questionable NRA membership totals and expenditures by the upper echelon of the organization:

On NRA membership, real and not-so-real:

  • Banners of the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, and Dana Loesch outside at the organization’s annual convention in Dallas in 2018 (Justin Sullivan/Getty) Does anyone else find these banners slightly frightening? No. Just me?

    A Newsweek review of the tax exempt records, known as 990 filings (full text of 990 from 2015 here, and 2017 here), shows wild fluctuation in membership numbers from year to year, but also an overall decline in membership revenue between 2007 and 2016.

  • According to an article in The Trace, there was a  “22 percent drop in membership revenue—from $163 million in 2016 to $128 million in 2017. Dues from members accounted for just 40 percent of the NRA’s total revenue in 2017 — the lowest percentage in a decade.”
  • Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist, said the group uses a few other tricks to pad its numbers: counting lifetime members who have died, counting annual members whose memberships have lapsed in the 13 month: “one method he and his colleagues used was to continue counting annual members on its rolls even after their membership lapsed, at least for another month, in hopes they would renew.”

On the big, big costs associated with keeping the EVP/CEO:

  • NRA EVP/CEO Wayne LaPierre: I want it all . . . now . . .

    CEO Wayne LaPierre, gets paid very well. In 2015, the last year for which the group’s tax return is available, LaPierre earned $5.1 million in total compensation. That’s more than the CEOs of Alaska Air, CME Group, Church & Dwight, Dish Network or Garmin earned that year.

  • A comprehensive article in Business Insider states that “in 2017, the most recent year available, NRA paid LaPierre a salary of $1,366,688, plus an additional $67,289 in ‘other compensation from the organization and related organizations,'” according to the company’s 2017 990 tax form. That brings his total compensation that year to $1,433,977.
  • In 2015, the NRA paid a one-time $3,767,345 supplemental retirement payment to LaPierre, which will become even more startling later in the post.
  • La Pierre will continue to earn a salary even after leaving the NRA. State records show that LaPierre’s contract “provides for consulting services and personal appearances upon the end of his employment, at an annual rate that starts at his currently contracted final base salary and is later reduced.”
  • An article on the NPR site by Tim Mark states that “of the more than 600 organizations that Charity Watch tracks, LaPierre is the eighth-highest compensated nonprofit leader in the country.
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary.” ~ Marc Owens, former head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises

A Pro Publica article contends that in July 2018, a half-dozen of the organization’s accountants produced a document detailing the most egregious issues that needed to be addressed by the audit committee tasked with conducting NRA fiscal oversight. The audit committee document was part of an effort by NRA accountants last year to address a broad array of questionable transactions and business arrangements that they believed could threaten the organization’s tax-exempt status.

The “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” details a range of questionable transactions and business arrangements involving several top NRA vendors and executives. Violations of the organizations procedures and policies included hiring staff without HR knowledge, reimbursement of living expenses beyond HR policies.

The transactions involved top NRA executives, favored vendors, and consultants, including Josh Powell, LaPierre’s former chief of staff. The organization’s 2017 tax filings revealed that Powell had racked up more than a hundred thousand dollars in personal expenses—including a housing allowance—paid by the NRA.

That being said, it appears that the biggest infractions came from the very top.

On LaPierre’s Questionable Expenses:

  • A leaked document shows that LaPierre likes his clothes—for purchases dating back to 2004 From the Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills the total for designer suits was $274,695.
  • Fox News reports that the CEO billed the group’s outside ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

    went on vacation just after the Sandy Hook, CN, massacre of school children
  • Among the travel expenses billed to the NRA’s former ad agency are more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas.
  • The Fox News article also states that “The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it. (The NRA is now in litigation with its former ad agency)
  • LaPierre charged the NRA’s ad agency $39,947 for a private jet to Eleuthera just three days after the Sandyhook Massacre and then $29,100 for a plane from Nassau, Bahamas, to Dallas, Texas.
  • But it wasn’t all vacations and travel expenses for LaPierre and his spouse: The NRA also spent tens of thousands of dollars in travel and lodging expenses for hair and makeup artists for Susan LaPierre.
“This is like the worst kind of corporate waste because buying the house does nothing to advance the interests of the NRA. How can you explain that? It’s not like he’s been underpaid.” ~ Daniel Kurtz, New York attorney specializing in non-profit law

About that nine-bathroom house on the golf course:

  • The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2019 that in 2018 LaPierre was in talks with the NRA’s former ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, to facilitate the purchase of a 10,000 suqare foot house in Dallas that was priced at $6.2 million at the time: “The discussions about the house purchase occurred early last year, shortly after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Mr. LaPierre was concerned about his security and was interested in another residence besides his publicly known address in northern Virginia.” (Oh irony, thy name is LaPierre…….)
  • LaPierre’s wife, Susan, did quibble with one design detail, according to an email The Post reviewed. She thought the men’s closet may not be large enough.
  • According to the Sydney Morning Herald, “The origins of the idea to buy the mansion, its proposed purpose and the reason the deal never went through are now being fiercely disputed by the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, which are locked in a bitter legal fight.”
  • An aside: Before the big falling out and all of the drama, Ackerman and McQueen had a 38-year relationship with the NRA, and in 2017 (the most recent available records), the NRA paid the ad agency and its affiliates over $40 million. This relationship could be a post all by itself, and that’s not even getting into the whole Ollie North aspect.
  • Ackerman says they were setting up an LLC, WBB Investments, for LaPierre so that his home buying would not become public.
  • Even though the NRA claims that not a dime of its money was spent on the proposed purchase, a good faith check for $70,000 was in fact wired to WBB Investments towards the home’s purchase.
Check from NRA to WSB Investments, LLC for $70K

And finally, did you want that coffee with or without the retirement option:

Remember that insignificant sum of $3,767,345 the NRA paid into LaPierre’s retirement fund in 2015?

NRA Annual Meeting
  • According to the NPR article, a copy of 2019 National Rifle Association pension documents obtained from a source showed that the NRA’s pension obligations were approximately $134 million at the beginning of this year, but they had only set aside $93 million to meet those obligations.
  • FYI: There are 786 people in the NRA’s pension plan, of which 223 are currently employed by the organization. The company has underfunded pensions affecting hundreds of former and current employees—even as LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, according to the group’s most recent financial disclosures.
  • An article on The Trace states that even though hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed to a number of NRA executives, board members, and vendors through sweetheart deals and opaque financial vehicles, to cut costs, the organization froze contributions to employees’ pension plans and even eliminated free coffee at its headquarters.
  • Perhaps the coffee cutback is only a reflection of the bigger cash problem facing the NRA. In May, they sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, claiming that the state’s zealous regulatory efforts against its Carry Guard insurance program had cost the NRA “tens of millions of dollars” in lost revenue, legal fees, and other damages.

So that’s just a capsule of how the NRA gets and spends some of its money, and granted, this post ended up being much longer than I had anticipated. What I take away from this is perhaps three things: Bloating at the top of organizations seems to be universal, and those in charge tend to forget all of the people they stepped on to get there. Second, the original mission of the NRA has been lost (advancing rifle marksmanship). Gun education and safety falls somewhere in the bottom of priorities.

And finally, and this is good news for those of us who really are against the organization’s upper echelon and the out-of-touch messaging, their belt tightening has affected their political spending:  The group shelled out just under $10 million on House and Senate candidates in 2018—less than half of what it spent on congressional races in 2014 and 2016 (emphasis mine).

(The above information can be found anywhere on the internet, but I’ve tried to use as many sources as possible so as to be thorough and as unbiased as I can be when discussing the NRA. I’ve also sought the original documents that were leaked on the web. All links are included unless a statement is considered common knowledge.
Tomorrow’s companion post will focus on the downfall of NRA TV.

 

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

“Northeaster,” by Winslow Homer (1895)

                   

“The dead have no sense of tact, no manners, they enter doors without knocking, but I continue to deal with them . . . They pack their bodies into my dreams, they eat my feelings . . . but I cannot shake them and do not want to. Their story, being part of mine, refuses to reach an end.” ~ Thom Gunn, from “Postscript: The Panel

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and cool.

"Northeaster," by William Beaubre (nd, watercolor on paper)

The first of November, the beginning of my worst month, the onset of my deep melancholy. Remembrance of those gone before me, memories of moments, snippets in time. Longings for what was and will never be again.

November 1st, the bane of my year.

Kathleen’s birthday on November 1st. I fear she is gone from my life for good. Mari’s birthday on October 1st. I fear I have lost her. Alan’s birthday November 23, gone much too young, and I never made that last visit. And then there are the anniversaries of the deaths. It’s all too much.

I saw my father once after he had died. He was sitting in the chair in my mother’s living room. That was the longest sighting. I’ve probably not mentioned that as it seems more than a bit off-kilter. But I have seen him in a few other glimpses since. Not in dreams, but in waking. I wonder about that.

I hate this time of year, and I love it. The dichotomy eats at me. I embrace the colors, the smells, the cool wind on my face. I have always loved autumn more than any other season, since I was young and old enough to remember. Yet I wish that the losses I have suffered were not so acutely present in autumn.

“Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.” ~ Emily Dickinson

Friday afternoon. Overcast, low 60’s and windy. Storm brewing.

I had wanted to write a full post on Tuesday, to continue on my melancholic journey, but Eamonn had the day off from work, which meant that access to the working computer in his room was limited. It is hard to write about grief and loss when the movie Troy is playing in the background (Brad P.’t buffness kept distracting me). And so I abandoned the post, hoping to return on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, only to find myself now finally sitting here, wondering where I was going with all of this.

"Capul Caliacra pe Furtună" (Cape Kaliakra on the Storm), by Eugen Voinescu (oil on canvas)

On Wednesday, I had to download a presentation program for Eamonn’s project, which led to the computer crashing and freezing. Corey and I took turns deleting unnecessary programs. I say that we took turns because it took so long to delete just one program that the process—which should have taken no more than 30 minutes tops—ended up taking hours. Deleting just one program under 40 MG took a good 20 to 30 minutes. This hard drive is essentially hanging on with a wing and a prayer.

Then Thursday, yesterday, I had two doctor’s appointments, one of which was to get the Botox for my migraines. I was mistaken in thinking that the shots would go into my scalp. Instead, I got shots between my eyebrows. on the top of my forehead, at my temples, behind my ears, and down my neck. Now we are in wait and see mode: wait to see if it takes effect, and see if it actually makes any difference.

So here I am, three days later, trying to remember what I had to say on Monday.

“a wind has blown the rain away & the sky away & all the leaves away, & the trees stand. i think i, too, have known autumn too long.” ~ E.E. Cummings

"L'orage" (The Storm), by Georges Michel (1843)

The house is very quiet. Corey is at work, as is Eamonn. Em and Brett are away for their conference this weekend, so it’s just the dogs and me. I had the saddest dream before I awoke: I was in a children’s hospital ICU, and I was visiting a baby girl who was quite ill. Her mother was also very ill. Somewhere in my dream, the mother had been bitten by a child vampire, so she was dying and had to be isolated from her baby. I told the nurses that I wanted to adopt the baby,who they had named Emma.

The social services people came and started asking me questions, and then they went away. I found out that my mother had sent them away and had told them that I wasn’t interested in adopting the baby. I became furious and tracked down the people who would be deciding and plead my case, and just as they were about to make a decision, I woke up.

Hate, hate, hate dreams like that, especially when a baby girl is just within my reach but not quite.

I remember thinking in the dream that the baby was quite ill and that it was possible that she would die, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to give her a loving home. Of course, she was olive-skinned with dark hair and brown eyes. My soul tortures me even in my sleep.

“Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.” ~ Adelaide Crapsey, from “November Night

So the pain level today? Head about a 2, back about an 8. It’s a trade-off. I consider myself lucky when it’s just one or the other and not both.

"The Wave," by Gustave Courbet (1870, oil on canvas)

Last night I helped Brett with an annotated bibliography for his technical writing class. Hate those things, especially in APA style, which I do not know by heart as I do MLA style. In fact, all styles are quite arbitrary. I mean, index numbers, no index numbers, date order, list of authors using an ampersand or the word and . . . and on and on ad nauseum. Reminded me of one of the aspects of research that I truly hate.

But it also reminded me of how much I miss doing research of my own. Of course, nothing is stopping me from doing research. Only myself. The very nature of research has changed so much in the last decade, with sources available with a few key search terms. It’s possible to find ten or twenty good sources within a half hour if you know what you’re doing.

Anyway, my next school project is to help Eamonn with his Power Point presentation for medical terminology. He chose Parkinson’s Disease as his topic. I was surprised that he did so, but then, not really. All of the kids are grieving their grandmother in their own way. Eamonn internalizes, Brett talks, Alexis cries.

As for me, I truly dread the upcoming holidays. My mind keeps flashing this picture of my m-in-law sitting at the end of the table in her dining room, wearing one of those silly paper hats that come out of a Christmas cracker. I cannot get the image out of my head.

“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

I read something recently, cannot remember where (sorry), that discussed the downside to having personal blogs, to putting so much personal information out there into the ether where it will remain forever and ever, amen.

"Between the Waves," by Ivan Aivazovsky (1898)

Of course, I have considered this, but quite frankly, I do not care. I try to respect other people’s privacy and not use full names, but what I put out here about myself is my responsibility, no one else’s, and unlike some teenager who is craving social acceptance, I am an adult who has made this decision fully aware of the potential pitfalls. I chose this forum; I use this forum to talk about life, my dreams and desires, and sometimes I venture into other territories, like politics, but I do not sit here at this keyboard expecting my words to be taken as anything more than what I intend: my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I do not claim to be a news blog, but those who do, should abide by the rules.

I mean, I have had people leave really nasty comments when I was posting about politics during the 2008 presidential election; that’s the expected price one pays for opining in an online forum And I have had my stalker, who picks and chooses what he/she wants to use against me, but in spite of this, I do not worry. I mean, I have no employer who is policing what I write to see if I slander the company or my managers. I’ve never written anything deliberately libelous against a former employer.

But I must admit that I am bothered by the very nature of the Internet that allows anyone to say anything about anyone. There exists no type of safe-hold. In some ways, it’s the first amendment run amok. Personal blogs and chat rooms have no managing editor to nix content. So things go out there, and people who are not as discerning as they should be, accept these words whole cloth.

I think that the maxim that just because you can do something does not mean that you should do something should be considered more carefully. But of course, that’s just my two cents. Not sure what took me off on that tangent. Apologies.

“There is starlight drifting on the black water.
There are stones in the sea no one has seen.
There is a shore and people are waiting.
And nothing comes back.
Because it is over.
Because there is silence instead of a name.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Elegy for my Father”

"The Northeaster, Cape Ann," by Ted Kautzky (1945, watercolor on paper)

Outside, the sky is darkening quickly, and the wind is gusting. Sounds like a nor’easter is coming. The various wind chimes surrounding the house are clanging in the background. On days such as this, I wish that I could take a hot bath, soak in the water with the candles lit, a cup of hot Constant Comment, or Typhoo, or Darjeeling on the ledge. But our old tub has a few rust holes in it which prevents it from holding water. Another thing on our list of home repairs needing attending to . . .

I have yet to buy flowers for Caitlin’s grave for the fall and winter.  I have memories of walking the aisles at the big florist wholesale place in downtown Norfolk, looking for just the right combination of silk flowers to place on my daughter’s grave, a bi-annual ritual that I have since abandoned. This year, though, I feel a need to do this again, to look for temporary beauty to take to a place that is both beautiful and horrible, the infant cemetery.

But it is a place that has brought me comfort in an odd sort of way, a place that I used to frequent daily, and then weekly, and then intermittently. It is the place that used to anchor me to this city, this region, the thought of not being nearby was actually impossible to fathom.

She has not come to me in dreams in a very long time. If I had to, I could leave this place now, knowing that she is in my heart and not in that place of parents’ worst nightmare made true. I suppose I have reached some sort of resolution in my own small way.

More later. Peace.

Music by David Gray, “As I’m Leaving”

                   

In November

Outside the house the wind is howling
and the trees are creaking horribly.
This is an old story
with its old beginning,
as I lay me down to sleep.
But when I wake up, sunlight
has taken over the room.
You have already made the coffee
and the radio brings us music
from a confident age. In the paper
bad news is set in distant places.
Whatever was bound to happen
in my story did not happen.
But I know there are rules that cannot be broken.
Perhaps a name was changed.
A small mistake. Perhaps
a woman I do not know
is facing the day with the heavy heart
that, by all rights, should have been mine.

~ Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems