New York Attorney General Investigation

Admissions in CEO Wayne LaPierre’s Answer to NYAG Complaint

February 23, 2021

Filing Summary

On February 23, 2021, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre filed his formal response, also called an “Answer”, to the lawsuit filed against him by the New York Attorney General’s Office. The NRA had previously unsuccessfully sought to dismiss or transfer the claims. The case will proceed to discovery.

While the Answer largely contains denials of the various allegations, LaPierre does make several admissions of note, which are included below in bullet point format.

Key Points

  • In the filing, LaPierre goes out of his way to include information about co-defendant, and his former Chief of Staff, Josh Powell, including noting that “Powell was fired for falsifying his travel expenses.” (para. 6).  Note, Mr. Powell has written a tell-all book about his time at the NRA in which he claims “waste and dysfunction” at the NRA allegedly cost the organization “hundreds off millions.” Powell has also been quoted saying “What I witnessed during my time at the N.R.A. should horrify every gun owner and Second Amendment advocate. Wayne LaPierre oversees his evil circus at the expense of all those Americans who are lawful gun owners and dues-paying N.R.A. members.”
    • LaPierre’s Answer notes that “Powell’s salary was set at $250,000, that it was later retroactively increased to $500,000.” (para. 243)
    • LaPierre also notes that after Powell left the NRA, a former NRA employee “lodged a sex discrimination complaint against Powell with the National Rifle Association….” (para. 267), and that LaPierre “heard that the National Rifle Association settled the potential sexual discrimination claim… for Powell’s conduct.” (para. 269)
    • The Answer also points out that “Powell was accused by an Ackerman McQueen employee of sexual harassment in 2018, and that she raised her accusation with him (Mr. LaPierre), which resulted in Powell being removed from any interaction with Ackerman….” (para. 270).
  • Similarly, LaPierre makes various admissions about former NRA CFO Wilson Phillips, including that “several of Phillips’ staff raised concerns with the Audit Committee pursuant to the NRA’s whistleblower policy during the summer of 2018, including at a July 2018 Audit Committee meeting and that certain such whistleblower concerns pertained to Mr. Phillips and Mr. Powell.” (para. 220)
    • LaPierre also admits that “in late 2017, a group of employees in the Office of the Treasurer of the National Rifle Association of America began an independent review of certain transactions and that their work culminated in a memo titled “List of Top Concerns for the Audit Committee” (the “Top Concerns Memo”) that was prepared on or about July 2018….” (para. 488)
  • LaPierre admits that the “National Rifle Association of America incurs substantial costs for his air travel, and that he testified that it is National Rifle Association of America policy that he travel by private aircraft at all times for security reasons.” (para. 143, emphasis added)
    • LaPierre admits that, “since June 2015, he and his family have taken private flights to and from the Bahamas on occasion and that on some of those trips, he stopped in Nebraska on each leg of the trip to pick up and drop off his niece and her family.” (para. 159)
    • LaPierre admits that “National Rifle Association of America records show that between June 2016 and February 2018, the organization paid for certain flights for his wife and extended family that were related to National Rifle Association of America business when he was not a passenger”; and that LaPierre “authorized some of these flights, [and] that the flights were not approved for security reasons, and that the flights were not approved by the National Rifle Association of America Board.” (para. 144)
  • In speaking about his relationship with longtime NRA vendor Membership Marketing Partners (MMP) and its principal David McKenize, LaPierre admits that he “frequently met with the MMP Principal, that he took private flights to California on many occasions between late 2013 and early 2017—usually staying at a hotel in Beverly Hills—to meet with the MMP Principal and others, often over lunch or dinner, and that, between 2013 and 2016, the MMP Principal, his wife, and their daughter received gifts from the National Rifle Association of America.” (para. 167)
    • Further, LaPierre, in the Answer, admits that he “has often visited the Bahamas in the summer, that during these trips, he would stay on a yacht owned by the MMP Principal, that the yacht named Illusions was equipped with four staterooms and two jet skis, with a crew that included a chef” (para. 169)
    • He also admits that he “has never disclosed his use of the boat in the Bahamas on the National Rifle Association of America Financial Disclosure Questionnaires” (para. 170)
  • LaPierre acknowledges that he “has attended “celebrity retreats” organized by the MMP Principal, that when he has attended these retreats, which were held annually in the Bahamas in December, that he stayed at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island, and that his lodging was paid for by the MMP Principal.” (para. 168)
  • LaPierre admits that “many of the costs incurred in connection with his travel and entertainment expenses—like the trips to the Bahamas and other locations with his wife, niece and family members—were justified as an investment in donor cultivation.” (para. 175)
  • From 2013 to 2017, LaPierre admits “he was reimbursed for Christmas gifts for his staff and various donors, that some of his staff received gifts from a retailer called Graeters, and that some of his staff received gifts from other retailers, such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.” (para. 191)
    • He also admits that “between 2009 and 2017, he expensed membership fees for a golf club located in the Washington D.C. area.” (para. 196)
  • LaPierre admits that “he testified that … in December 2015, at his wife’s request, and with the approval of the Treasurer’s office, the National Rifle Association of America hired his niece to work on Women’s Leadership Forum events and projects.” (para. 141)
  • With respect to the controversy over the attempted purchase of a Dallas mansion for LaPierre, LaPierre claims that the NRA Director of Security advised him to leave the Washington, D.C. area because of threats that have been made against him and that, “shortly thereafter, the co-founder of Ackerman proposed having a real-estate investment company that he owned purchase a house that he and his wife could use as a safe house from time to time.” (para. 208). 
    • LaPierre also acknowledges “he and his wife looked at several houses in the Dallas, TX areas for possible use as a safe house.” (para. 209)
  • LaPierre admits “since being elected Executive Vice President, he has not used the National Rifle Association of America’s regular travel agent to make his travel arrangements, that, since the 1990s, he has booked travel through a travel consultant based in Woodland Hills, CA, and that the travel consultant bills the National Rifle Association of America through two companies: Inventive Incentive & Insurance Services Inc. and GS2 Enterprises (collectively, the “Travel Consultant”).” (para. 178)
  • LaPierre acknowledges that board member and former board President (Marion Hammer) “has been paid under the EVP Consulting Budget since 2004” and that LaPierre signs those contracts.” (para. 393)
  • With respect to vendor arrangements, LaPierre notes that “the Board adopted a policy under which any agreement by the National Rifle Association of America or the National Rifle Association of America Institute for Legislative Action in excess of $100,000 could not be executed without the approval of the President and one of the two Vice-Presidents.” (para. 99)
    • Of note, LaPierre notes that “in January 2020, the National Rifle Association of America Board adopted a new version of the Statement of Corporate Ethics.” (para. 115)