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September 14, 2019

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Executive Compensation at the NRA (2017)

by Anne Paddock

The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is a non-profit 501 (c) (4) organization that fights tirelessly for our second amendment rights. Whether or not you believe the second amendment refers to “militia” or “the people” has always been controversial but is even more so in the wake of the near weekly occurrence of mass shootings in this country.

People are speaking out for gun control because quite frankly, there are too many guns and assault weapons in the hands of the wrong people (primarily males under the age of 60 if you look at the statistics of who is committing these mass shootings), and too many people are dying (about 36,000 a year from guns although admittedly not all from mass shootings).

But the NRA won’t budge an inch often referring to “the slippery slope” and the right of people to defend themselves from the tyranny of government (that our government along with several others have more than 15,000 nuclear weapons doesn’t seem to be a consideration:  gun power cannot match nuclear power).  But, after looking at the Form 990 (2017) the NRA submitted to the IRS, it appears certain executives and directors may be just as concerned about self preservation based on the compensation, perks, and benefits they receive from the NRA.

The NRA is successful because they are organized (reportedly 5 million members who pay about $45 a year for membership although the NRA recently reduced the annual rate to $30). In 2017, the NRA raised about $312 million (compared to $370 million in 2016) but they spent $330 million – $18 million more than they raised (although $4 million was in depreciation) causing the net fund balance to decrease to $25 million (compared to $36 million at year-end 2016 and $75 million at year-end 2015).

Why did they spend $18 million more than they raised in 2017?  Good question.  Maybe they weren’t watching closely or maybe they didn’t want to cut back on spending knowing the fund balance could absorb the expenditures. No matter the reason; the outcome was the same: they spent a lot more money than they raised between 2015-2017 which resulted in the net fund balance decreasing by $50million from $75 million to $25 million.

In 2017, the NRA spent funds on all sorts of things including: staff, lobbyists, fundraisers, office-related costs, legal fees, training, advertising, public relations, travel including flying first class and/or charter, health or social club dues or initiation fees, housing allowances or residences for personal use (for 4 executives), tax indemnification and gross up payments, non-qualified retirement plans, life and group insurance, and allegedly for lavish spending by board members including personal expenses and clothing purchases at a Beverly Hills boutique, and paying their executives very well.

The most recent IRS Form 990 (2017) reports the organization employed 819 individuals who were compensated $66.8 million, which equates to an average compensation of $81,600. 144 employees received more than $100,000 in compensation with the 13 most highly compensated key executives having received $9.3 million dollars in 2017:

  • $1,433,977:  Wayne LaPierre, CEO and EVP
  • $1,191,194:  Chris W Cox, Executive Director, NRAILA
  • $  844,864:  Todd Grable, Executive Director,Membership, Affinity, and Licensing
  • $  779,066:  Joshua L Powell, Chief of Staff and Executive Director, General Operations
  • $  720,000:  Robert K Weaver, Executive Director, General Operations*
  • $  713,975:  Michael Marcellin, Managing Director, Affinity and Licensing
  • $  709,996:  Wilson H Phillips, Jr., Treasurer
  • $  690,091:  Tyler Schropp, Executive Director, Advancement
  • $  665,023:  Douglas Hamlin, Executive Director, Publications
  • $  476,408:  David Lehman, Deputy Executive Director, NRAILA
  • $  445,231:  John C Frazer, Secretary and General Counsel
  • $  412,632:  Joseph P DeBergalis Jr, Deputy Exec Director General Operations (thru Jan)
  • $  184,000:  Marion P Hammer, Director

*Mr. Weaver’s employment ended in 2016 but he was compensated $720,000 in 2017.

As illustrated above, 12 of the 13 (92%) of the most highly compensated employees are male while 1 (the lowest on the list who happens to be an 80-year old female director of the NRA with no other employment title) is a female.  The ten most highly compensated individuals are all male. Not one woman in the executive management top ten list above despite a membership that is reported to be 40% female and 40% ethnic minorities (according to Jim Brown of Quora). In fact, all ten of the executives listed above are middle-aged white males.

The IRS Form 990 (2017) also reports the NRA paid for:

  • first class or charter travel
  • tax indemnification and gross-up payments
  • a housing allowance or residence for personal use (for 4 individuals)
  • health or social club dues or initiation fees

That the organization used membership dues to pay for first class or charter travel (due to “travel logistics or security concerns”) is perplexing given the heightened security of the TSA and the airline industry. How ironic is it that the NRA doesn’t always have their employees travel commercially in economy seats because of security concerns or travel logistics.  The only upside to this is that they will run out of money sooner. That these benefits and high salaries are being paid to twelve men (one of whom wasn’t even employed at the organization in 2017 but was compensated $720,000) could be construed as excessive. Knowing this information, is it any wonder the executives, board members, and others who greatly benefit from this organization are fighting to keep the organization relevant? And, why are the members of the NRA paying the 10 or 12 most highly compensated male employees nearly $10 million annually plus all the perks when they managed to reduce the net fund assets by $50 million in two years?

To read the IRS Form 990 (2017), click here.

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