Monday, September 7, 2020

Former NRA leader calls for gun control

 The National Rifle Association’s former second-in-command is breaking with the group’s orthodoxy and calling for universal background checks and so-called red flag laws in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money and internal intrigue than the Second Amendment, while thwarting constructive dialogue on gun violence, reported the New York Times.

The former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, reinforces the kind of criticism made of the organization by gun control groups and state regulators, but it is the first critical look at its recent history by such a high-ranking insider.

He describes the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, as a woefully inept manager, but also a skilled lobbyist with a deft touch at directing President Trump to support the group’s objectives, and who repeatedly reeled in the president’s flirtations with even modest gun control measures.

The book, “Inside the N.R.A.: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” is to be published next week, the latest public calamity for an organization that has faced years of headlines detailing allegations of corruptioninfighting and even its infiltration by a Russian agent.

The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, is also seeking to dissolve the group, in a lawsuit filed last month that names both Mr. LaPierre and Mr. Powell among four individual defendants from whom it is seeking millions of dollars in restitution.

Much of the book centers on Mr. LaPierre, who Mr. Powell says “couldn’t run an organization on a fiscally sound basis to save his life,” and who filled the N.R.A.’s coffers by catering to “the extreme fringe.” So pervasive were the organization’s troubles, Mr. Powell says, that Mr. LaPierre confided in him last year that he was thinking about quitting, and possibly asking Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, or Jason Chaffetz, a former House member, to replace him.

Mr. Powell’s book has drawn scathing reactions from the N.R.A. Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman, said that Mr. LaPierre spoke to many people about succession planning “if, and when, he ever left the N.R.A.” and that Mr. Powell “knows full well that the most serious ‘financial issues’ the N.R.A. confronted were the abuses of now terminated employees and vendors who abused the trust placed in them.” (In his book, Mr. Powell calls Mr. Arulanandam “the guy who became my best friend at the N.R.A.”)

Documents reviewed by The New York Times showed that weeks before Mr. Powell was fired, he was accused of improperly charging roughly $58,000 in personal expenses to the organization, a nonprofit, including airfare for himself or his family to Palm Beach, Fla., San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas, among a number of other destinations — accusations that echo those made by the attorney general against Mr. LaPierre.

Mr. Powell subsequently agreed to repay about $40,000 to the organization, though the N.R.A. has not cashed his check as its review of his expenses continues

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