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Over the past year, the National Rifle Association has struggled with infighting, allegations of financial misconduct and investigations by the New York and District of Columbia attorneys general. The gun group has also been locked in protracted and costly litigation with its longtime public relations firm. Those legal troubles have cost the NRA $100 million. Now NPR's Tim Mak has secret tape of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre revealing this to the group's board.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: The infighting over the last year led to public disclosures of LaPierre's six-figure spending sprees on suits and private jet travel. The public has never been informed about the true costs of the NRA's troubles until now.
WAYNE LAPIERRE: The costs that we bore was probably about a hundred-million-dollar hit in lost revenue and real cost to this association in 2018 and 2019.
MAK: That's LaPierre briefing board members and staff at a board meeting in January, according to tape exclusively obtained by NPR from a source in the room. LaPierre didn't downplay the significance of that $100 million figure.
LAPIERRE: I mean, that's huge.
MAK: For context, the NRA and its affiliates raised more than $412 million in 2018. To respond to these losses, LaPierre said that the NRA has been forced to dramatically reduce its budget in 2019 and 2020.
LAPIERRE: We took about 80 million in real costs out of the NRA budget - $80 million. I mean, we kind of reframed this entire association. We took it down to the studs.
MAK: LaPierre also blamed the D.C. and New York attorneys general for his group's troubles, saying that the investigations were comparable to, quote, "weaponized government" in autocratic countries.
LAPIERRE: Now, I've never seen anything like that in the United States of America, to tell you the truth. I mean, that is Cuba. That is communist China. That is Venezuela. It's Russia. It's every other country we look at and we say, thank God we don't live there.
MAK: In the months since the NRA's winter meeting, the group's financial situation has only gotten worse. The NRA announced layoffs and pay cuts in late March, blaming the coronavirus crisis for these measures. The group's annual convention had been scheduled to take place this past weekend but was canceled. While the crisis has undoubtedly affected the organization's finances, the tape of LaPierre from January indicates that many of the organization's financial cuts were underway well before the emergence of the public health crisis. The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment.
Tim Mak, NPR News, Washington.
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