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Former NRA Staff Outraged Over Allegations Of CEO's Financial Misconduct


Former staff are outraged about allegations of financial misconduct at the National Rifle Association. A series of leaked internal documents shows lavish six-figure clothing and travel expenses for CEO Wayne LaPierre. NPR's learning new details about just how bad the, money troubles are at the gun rights group.

NPR's Tim Mak spoke to former NRA employees. They describe low wages pension problems and a culture of fear within the organization. He's here now. And, Tim, can you first just start by outlining the financial mess at the NRA?

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Sure. The NRA's power is in their millions of members, which makes up the bulk of their fundraising. The organization has been a reliable backer of the president, but now they're facing real money troubles. They've run up deficits to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in recent years.

Meanwhile, stories in The New Yorker and other publications have aired allegations that high-ranking officials are using nonprofit money for personal enrichment. LaPierre, who has been at the Organization for decades, is now facing calls for his resignation from his own board members.

CORNISH: Usually the NRA is secretive. You've been learning a lot about what the situation is like inside the organization. What have you learned?

MAK: So we spoke to former staff in the training program, the shooting program, the fundraising staff. And they described the NRA as an organization with two sets of rules. You had luxuries for the executives and very low wages for rank-and-file staff.

CEO Wayne LaPierre made $1.4 million in 2017, and he was the second-highest-paid leader of a nonmedical nonprofit in America. Rank-and-file members complained they were not compensated well at all. NPR also got a copy of the NRA's pension documents, and they show that the pension for employees has been frozen and has been underfunded by $40 million, affecting hundreds of their staff.

In contrast, LaPierre received a $3.8 million supplemental retirement payout just a few years ago in 2015. We should say that NRA members have said LaPierre is behind a lot of the group's successes, and most still appear to back him up. We also want to add that we asked the NRA multiple times for comment, but they didn't respond.

CORNISH: These financial revelations come at an already difficult time for the NRA. What's going on now?

MAK: So they're under a real strain. Their president stepped aside in dramatic fashion at their annual meeting a few weeks ago. And the New York attorney general has also opened up an investigation into the NRA, which is a nonprofit chartered in New York. These revelations about alleged financial misconduct, they've sparked interest from investigators on Capitol Hill.

And there are a lot of grassroots NRA members outraged by these public reports, calling for new leadership. All of these things, along with their money troubles, is putting them under real strain.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tim Mak. Tim, thank you.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.