NRA Online TV Network Will Shut Down Amid Allegations Of Financial Misconduct
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
It's been a rough week for the National Rifle Association. Its online television network, NRATV, announced it will shut down, and the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, has resigned. This is all happening amidst allegations of financial misconduct within the organization. NPR's Tim Mak has been covering all this. He joins us now. Welcome to the studio.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Thank you.
CORNISH: The NRA of course is influential, but it sounds like they are going through some serious problems. So what is happening? What's driving this?
MAK: Yeah, so this has been months in the making. The NRA has had a number of whistleblowers allege financial misconduct within the organization. And the CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, faces some very public accusations of financial impropriety. Let me give you an example. Leaked internal documents paint a picture of lavish spending on suits and travel, for example. LaPierre has countered that people in the organization have been trying to oust him, including folks working for the NRA's marketing firm Ackerman McQueen. The NRA has in fact sued Ackerman McQueen, and it's been getting nastier ever since.
CORNISH: What are some of the more recent developments? I mentioned NRATV. What's going on?
MAK: Right, so the NRA runs an online television network called NRATV, and it was produced by Ackerman McQueen. In a statement, LaPierre said within the last day that it would be shutting down that television network. And there's been another blow to the organization. Chris Cox, the NRA's longtime top lobbyist - he's resigned. Now, he might not be a household name, but he's considered one of the most powerful figures in Washington, D.C. He had earlier been suspended by the NRA based on claims that he was part of efforts to oust LaPierre. He's denied this. That is, Cox has denied this. I've reached out both to Cox and the NRA, but neither have commented.
CORNISH: Now, you're reporting that there are actually multiple voices within the gun rights community more broadly speaking out against the NRA. Who are they?
MAK: Well, so the gun rights movement is really splintering due to some of this turmoil that's happening right now, right? There are ardent Second Amendment supporters publicly announcing they're no longer going to be backing the NRA. Here's Greg Kinman. He runs a YouTube account about firearms. Now, he has 4.2 million subscribers. Here's what he said.
GREG KINMAN: We decided that we are just no longer going to be working in an official capacity with the NRA.
MAK: Now, that's important because Kinman has historically told his audience to join the NRA. Meanwhile, prominent conservative writer Erick Erickson wrote on his website that the NRA was, quote, "adrift by grift" and, quote, "rotting from the inside out." In the last week and a half, a number of former NRA staff and concerned NRA members have created an organization called Save the Second to exist as kind of a watchdog for the NRA. Robert Pincus is a member of Save the Second's board.
ROBERT PINCUS: The established leadership of the NRA has become complacent in regard to our fight for gun rights, and they've become focused on fundraising and cronyism.
CORNISH: People talk a lot about the influence of the NRA in Congress. Are we actually hearing from lawmakers?
MAK: Well, it's interesting 'cause the lawmakers we're hearing from are interested primarily in investigating the NRA. That is, a lot of Democrats are interested in this. Congressman Brad Schneider - he's a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He told NPR exclusively that he would be launching his own investigation into the tax exempt status of the NRA, and he's demanding documents related to alleged financial misconduct. There are other congressional investigations already underway. And separately, the New York attorney general is investigating the NRA's finance for any misconduct. It's a very serious situation for the NRA to find itself in right now.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks for your reporting.
MAK: Thanks a lot.
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