Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The NRA is the chief lobbyist for the merchants of death. The NRA is fully integrated with the weapons manufacturers for whom it lobbies, with board members from its weapons manufacturer clients populating the board of the NRA and providing its major financial support. Mother Jones reports, EXCLUSIVE: Unmasking the NRA's Inner Circle:
[W]hatever its true size, today's NRA, widely considered to be disproportionately influential in politics, operates more like a corporation or politburo than a typical nonprofit or lobbying organization. Its 76 board directors and 10 executive officers keep a grip on power through elections in which ordinary grassroots members appear to have little say.
The NRA leadership is known as much for its organizational secrecy as its absolutist interpretation of the Second Amendment. That may be why, until now, little has been known about some of its most powerful insiders. They sit on the NRA board of directors' nine-member Nominating Committee, which, despite ballots distributed annually to legions of NRA members, closely controls who can be elected to the NRA board. Mother Jones has uncovered key details about the current Nominating Committee*:
- George K. Kollitides II, the chief executive of Freedom Group—which made the Bushmaster military-style assault rifle used in the Newtown massacre—was appointed as a member of the current committee, despite his failed attempts to be elected to the NRA board.
- The current head of the Nominating Committee, Patricia A. Clark, lives in Newtown, just a couple of miles from the school where 20 young children and six adults were massacred.
- While longtime NRA members and election watchers have reported that the Nominating Committee consists entirely of elected board members, the organization's bylaws allow for three members to be appointed from outside the NRA board—as three of its current members were.
- Two additional outsiders appointed to the current Nominating Committee include Roger K. Bain, a licensed federal firearms dealer in Pennsylvania, and Riley B. Smith, a timber company executive in Alabama.
Long before Newtown, and even before the bloodbath at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, a survey conducted in May 2012 by Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that most gun owners, including current and former members of the NRA, favor tighter gun regulations such as universal criminal background checks. And according to an ABC/Washington Post poll published on Tuesday, 86 percent of gun-owning households support a law requiring background checks at gun shows to close the so-called "loophole." So what motivates NRA leaders to remain so out of step with their constituency, flatly rejecting any discussion of legal reform?
One answer may be their ties to the $11.7 billion gun industry. Freedom Group's Kollitides ran for the NRA board in 2009 but lost, despite an endorsement from gun manufacturer Remington. "His campaign didn't sit well with some gun bloggers, who viewed him as an industry interloper," according to a 2011 report in the New York Times.
* * *
Elections for the NRA board, which oversees the organization's nearly 800 employees and more than $200 million in annual revenues, occur annually for 25 directors, who serve three-year terms. The vote typically involves less than 7 percent of NRA members, according to past NRA ballot results and pro-NRA bloggers. A low election turnout among members is not uncommon among nonprofit groups, but how a candidate gets his or her name on the ballot is key. According to an NRA supporter and self-proclaimed Second Amendment activist in Pennsylvania who blogs under the handle "Sebastian," this occurs one of two ways: It requires a grassroots petition by members, which rarely gets a candidate on the ballot, or a candidate must be included on the official slate endorsed by the Nominating Committee.
"Read the bios in your ballot and you'll see that almost all were nominated by the nominating committee," complained "Pecos Bill" from Illinois last January in one pro-gun-rights forum. "Seems the NRA, fine organization that it is, is being run like a modern corporation and the 'good ol' boys' are keeping themselves in power."
*This refers to the Nominating Committee appointed by the NRA board in 2011 for the most recent board elections in 2012. This year's Nominating Committee, whose members remain unclear, presumably will soon release its handpicked slate of candidates for NRA board elections in 2013.
In fact, 10 women currently serve on the board, but few people had access to that information until very recently, when the NRA posted a complete list on its website. (In the past, the NRA cloaked its board in secrecy; incomplete and outdated lists were published by outside groups using press clips and legally required NRA financial disclosures.) According to a search using Archive.org, the current board page was published sometime after December 6.
The Nominating Committee now led by Clark handpicked nearly all of the candidates on the 2012 ballot. As John Richardson, an NRA "Life Member" in North Carolina explained on his blog, No Lawyers - Only Guns and Money, in January 2012, "This year there are 31 candidates running for 25 positions. Of these 31, 29 were nominated by the Nominating Committee. The remaining two candidates were nominated by a petition of the membership which requires at least 250 signatures." (One of those two nominated by petition was elected to the board last year.)
Other notable figures currently serving on the board include actor and firearms enthusiast Tom Selleck; anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist; Lt. Colonel Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame; right-wing rocker Ted Nugent, whose thinly veiled threats about Barack Obama's reelection campaign prompted a Secret Service inquiry; and Marion Hammer, the former NRA president who helped mastermind the spread of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.
Mother Jones adds, Meet the NRA's Board of Directors:
The National Rifle Association claims to speak for more than 4 million gun owners. But the shots are really called by a hush-hush group of 76 directors. The majority are nominated via a top-down process and elected by a small fraction of NRA members. A breakdown of the current board, based on their official bios:
- 87 percent are men. 93 percent are white.
- 25 percent are current or former federal, state, or local lawmakers or officials.
- 22 percent are current or former law enforcement officers. 30 percent are current or former members of the military.
- 24 percent are lawyers.
- 12 percent are entertainers or athletes.
- 64 percent are hunters. 71 percent are sport or competitive shooters.
- At least 71 percent were nominated, endorsed, or selected by the NRA's Nominating Committee.
Continue reading for the bios. See a complete list of current NRA board members.
Frank Smyth from Mother Jones discussed his reporting with Lawrence O'Donnell on The Last Word on Thursday.