New York and DC Attorneys General Investigations

NRA Trial Day 13: “Wayne’s World” Was Expensive WITH TRANSCRIPT

January 26, 2024

Today in Court

The NYAG began the examination of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre on January 26th, with the examination lasting the entire morning session and then for approximately 40 minutes in the afternoon and then for approximately 40 minutes in the afternoon. Counsel for LaPierre indicated his client would be available to continue his testimony on Monday morning.   

Summary of Today’s Testimony

  • NYAG’s Jonathan Conley questioned LaPierre, beginning with questions about the process for booking private charter flights paid for by the NRA. LaPierre acknowledged he has flown private charter since 2012 and that he never asked what these flights cost.
    • LaPierre testified that he flew by private jet because he was told by the NRA’s head of security that it was necessary, but testimony was elicited that indicated that LaPierre had been traveling by private charter flights for years before the head of security was even hired by LaPierre.
    • LaPierre testified that he had a personal travel agent who for 30 years would book lodging, private jet, and black car services for him. He said that he would call her directly to book travel and that nothing was requested in writing. While LaPierre initially said he would “occasionally” speak to her regarding the costs of his private jet travel, the NYAG showed him previous testimony in which he said that he did not discuss such costs with the travel agent. After that, LaPierre admitted that he never asked her about the costs and that she never offered that information.
  • Evidence was entered into the record of various invoices of charter flights paid for by the NRA, including for family trips to the Bahamas and flights for members of LaPierre’s family members that he was not on.
    • LaPierre explicitly acknowledged that the NRA paid for private charter flights to the Bahamas for his family vacations, which on some occasions included stops to pick up his niece and her family in Nebraska. He also acknowledged that the board did not approve these flights.
  • LaPierre testified at length about his and the NRA’s relationship with David McKenzie, who he said was a good friend, and the NRA vendors in which McKenzie was a stakeholder. Many of the most eyebrow-raising revelations about LaPierre’s behavior as NRA CEO relate to his extravagant trips on McKenzie’s yachts while McKenzie’s companies were paid even more than its contracts with the NRA provisioned.
    • LaPierre testified that he extended the contract for one of McKenzie’s companies, MMP, with four years remaining on the contract because MMP employees were “very worried” that LaPierre would retire and “they did not like Chris Cox,” LaPierre’s potential heir apparent.
    • LaPierre also admitted that he was the “principal” for the NRA’s relationship with McKenzie’s Associated Television International (ATI) and the only person at the NRA that requested services from ATI. ATI produced a television show called CrimeStrike in which LaPierre starred. LaPierre said that he did not know how much the NRA paid ATI, including whether the NRA had paid $1.8 million to film the show at a home owned by McKenzie, saying he only knew that “the NRA paid a significant amount.”
  • As discussed by previous witnesses, LaPierre acknowledged that he stayed on McKenzie’s yachts, including “many times” on one in Europe and one in the Bahamas annually for at least five years. The NRA often paid for LaPierre to travel there, and then other expenses would be covered by McKenzie.  According to LaPierre, these trips were not disclosed to or approved by the board.
    • NRA Watch noted in his testimony that LaPierre would not adopt the term “yacht”, and instead called McKenzie’s 100-foot vessel in the Bahamas — featuring a crew of five, a chef, a jet boat and jet skis — “a boat.” When asked if a private chef would prepare him meals on the yacht, LaPierre responded “Not all of the time.” 
    • LaPierre testified that he and his family stayed on the yacht during his niece’s wedding in the Bahamas. 
    • LaPierre also testified that Susan LaPierre and her friends stayed on one of McKenzie’s yachts for a week in June 2018.
    • The LaPierres also vacationed with the McKenzies to the Adriatic Sea on one occasion, on a boat even larger than the Illusion called “The Grand Illusion.”  On another occasion, the group traveled to Abu Dhabi and India.
  • Shown his NRA financial disclosure forms between 2016 and 2018, LaPierre testified that despite all of the trips he and his family took that were paid for by McKenzie, he did not report them on the forms, which required him to report whether he or his family had received “any gift, gratuity, personal favor, or entertainment with either a retail price or fair market value in excess of $300 from any person or entity that has or is seeking to have a business relationship or receive funds from NRA or any NRA entity.” LaPierre said that he hadn’t considered all of the trips with the McKenzies as gifts.
  • LaPierre acknowledged an incredibly lucrative post-employment arrangement with the NRA in which he would have been paid over $17 million even after retiring, over a 12-year period lasting until 2030. [Note that this post-employment agreement was replaced after the NYAG sued the NRA and the NRA has since said that LaPierre will not do work for the NRA or be compensated after his resignation.]
  • The testimony also highlighted several odd expenditures by, on behalf of, LaPierre, including recurring charges for having his backyard treated for mosquitos, thousands of dollars in gifts to the McKenzies from Bergdorf Goodman, and golf club dues for a Trump golf course. These were all paid for (or reimbursed to LaPierre) with NRA funds.
  • LaPierre also corroborated prior testimony that Marion Hammer, along with other board members, had arrangements to be paid by NRA entities. In Hammer’s case, she was compensated twice – by both the NRA-ILA and the NRA. With respect to her contract with the NRA, Hammer received a ten-year contract, increasing her compensation to $220,000 per year.
  • LaPierre acknowledged that he made the decision to place the NRA into bankruptcy; and admitted (after some back-and-forth with AAG Connely) that ultimately the bankruptcy court held it was improperly filed. 
  • After the lunch break, the AG’s Office questioned LaPierre about the pass-through arrangement by which certain NRA expenses would be paid by vendor Ackerman McQueen, and then billed to the NRA. LaPierre was shown an Ackerman expense report that included the purchase of an iPad, MacBook, headphones, and Apple TV for his wife.
  • LaPierre was also asked about his longtime friend and Ackerman executive, Tony Makris, and the production of a TV show called “Under Wild Skies.” The show paid for several safari or hunting trips for Wayne and Susan LaPierre, along with free taxidermy for various animals. LaPierre testified he did not consider himself to be a “trophy room guy,” and that trip destinations included Argentina, South Africa, and Botswana.
  • After the lunch break, the AG’s Office questioned LaPierre about the pass-through arrangement by which certain NRA expenses would be paid by vendor Ackerman McQueen, and then billed to the NRA. LaPierre was shown an Ackerman expense report that included the purchase of an iPad, MacBook, headphones, and Apple TV for his wife.
    • LaPierre was also asked about his longtime friend and Ackerman executive, Tony Makris, and the production of a TV show called “Under Wild Skies.” The show paid for several safari or hunting trips for Wayne and Susan LaPierre, along with free taxidermy for various animals. LaPierre testified he did not consider himself to be a “trophy room guy,” and that trip destinations included Argentina, South Africa, and Botswana.
  • LaPierre was also confronted about the spending of his longtime aide Millie Hallow, including NRA expenses that went towards Hallow’s sons’ wedding, and a $1,285 black car service for her son to be driven from New York to Washington D.C. LaPierre admitted that, even after an investigation into Hallow’s spending in the mid-2000’s that led to her credit card being revoked, Hallow charged hundreds of thousands of dollars on black car services alone. LaPierre admitted that these expenses were not in the best interest of the NRA.

Analysis

The NRA was founded in New York in 1871 and to see its leader facing the music in a New York courthouse is a capstone on a dramatic fall from grace for an organization that was previously held up as the pinnacle of interest group political power in America. 

This was a different Wayne LaPierre then we saw during the NRA’s failed bankruptcy trial a few years ago. In that trial, he was combative and gave long-winded answers, yet today we largely saw a much more muted witness that simply answered the questions posed to him. Although his demeanor was different, LaPierre offered little to no plausible explanation for the spending, gifts, and executive perks at the heart of the AG’s case. It will be interesting to see if that changes during the examination of LaPierre by the NRA and/or his own attorney.  

LaPierre’s main function as Executive Vice President of the NRA is to manage the organization’s day-to-day operations. That includes significant decision-making powers with regard to the NRA’s vendors. Despite this, LaPierre was taking extravagant family vacations on yachts owned by a man who was a stakeholder in multiple companies with highly lucrative NRA contracts and failing to report those trips on his NRA conflicts disclosure forms. Previous testimony has shown that for years, the agreements for some of those vendors did not go through the proper channels for approval and some were paid more than what was contracted for.

What’s Next?

The trial will resume on Monday morning with continued testimony from Wayne LaPierre. The NYAG has indicated in court that they plan on wrapping up their case in chief on Tuesday. Defendant John Frazer is likely to be called, among a few other final witnesses for the plaintiff.

Disclaimer: The following summaries and analysis are prepared by individuals at the courthouse listening to the testimony being offered in the New York Attorney General’s case against the NRA. These summaries do not purport to cover every fact or occurrence discussed during the trial. The posts may be updated as soon as transcripts are available from the court, including to cross-reference specific testimony.