A Determined Man

Aug 13, 2019

Editor’s Note: Yesterday we received word of yet another NRA Board of Directors member’s resignation. Professional shooter Julie Golob announced her resignation, saying that it was “not a decision I made lightly” but felt “this is the best decision for me and my family.” While the latest resignation doesn’t directly impact the following story, we believed this the appropriate spot to announce this latest development.

You might imagine David Dell’Aquila, the man leading the charge to remake the National Rifle Association as being a calm, professional type who’s been successful and is professionally offended by the way the venerable organization appears to have been run as a private fiefdom for decades.

You’d be wrong.

David Dell’Aquila is a determined man.

He is exasperated at the way the organization he cares deeply about has been operated, how the leadership has responded to calls for major changes, and especially annoyed by the criticisms NRA officials and board members have accused anyone who criticizes them - especially him.

After spending a few minutes in conversation with him following last Friday’s “final letter” to the NRA’s Board of Directors, he didn’t mince words: he’s pissed.

“I’ve tried to help them some of them realize it wasn’t too late to make changes,” he told me, “and instead of listening to suggestions based on trying to fix the problems without outside intervention, they ‘lawyered up’. Others followed another worn-out NRA technique: attack, attack, attack while you simultaneously deny, deny, deny.”

“Well,” he told me, “enough’s enough. The chance to fix the NRA internally is pretty much out the window. Now, it’s others who will be looking to make gigantic changes. And they’re not at all interested in preserving the organization or listening to the more than five-million members.”

He’s referring to the Attorneys General of New York and the District of Columbia, both of whom have opened investigations into the NRA and the NRA Foundation’s apparent longstanding practice of ignoring governance regulations for tax-exempt organizations.

In letters to those Attorneys General last week, Dell’Aquila reminded both New York Attorney General Lucinda James and District of Columbia AG Karl A. Racine that while he agreed with their determination that their respective investigations were justified, they were obligated to pursue them with “‘a blind eye’ thus eliminating any possibility of partisan politics and irrespective of the subject organization’s political association.”

Those letters, Dell’Aquila told me, led to a response from NRA Board Member Bob Barr that seems to have pushed Dell’Aquila close to his boiling point.

Barr wrote:

“I am not impressed in the least with your letters encouraging state Attorneys General office in their efforts to put the NRA out of business. I find this aspect of your endeavors — regardless of merits your other efforts may or not have — to be utterly inconsistent with your statements about working to strengthen the Association.

I cannot stop you from sending me more of your materials, but what is reflected in your letters to these two attorneys general has destroyed any credibility you otherwise claim to be motivated by the best interests of the Association.”

That prompted this response from Dell’Aquila:

“I respectfully disagree with your argument, that it is not important to alert attorneys generals that our members and voters are concerned with the issues of the NRA that could unnecessary become politicized and could unduly influence the 2020 presidential election.

“Because of your ineffectiveness at dealing with the “cancer” at the NRA, there is a steady stream of problems at the NRA, that were not previously known to the members. For example, media reported a series of "sweetheart" deals between the NRA and members of its board of directors. Now, yesterday, it was disclosed that Wayne LaPierre was making plans to use NRA money to purchase a large mansion for his personal use in Texas.

Until I filed my civil lawsuit against the NRA, the attorneys general were the only method of generating subpoenas and discovery regarding your failure as a member of the board of directors.

The members of the Grassroots organization have a legitimate concern that the attorney general offices might attempt to use their investigations to play politics -- to the detriment of the NRA. We are very concerned that these investigations may get delayed into next year, where they will play a greater role in the 2020 presidential election.

The old adage that “you are either a part of the solution or part of the problem” readily comes to mind. I am increasingly concerned that you may be a part of the problem.

I note that you have been a member of the NRA board of directors for many years. If the NRA board of directors -- including you -- had done its job, and monitored the spending of Mr. LaPierre and his management team, we would not be in this unfortunate situation. “

There’s more in the response, but it is more direct- and personal- than necessary to repeat here. HIs response ended with Dell’Aquila’s notifying Mr. Barr his grade was being chanced to an “F” on his group’s NRA Board of Directors scoreboard and Barr’s name added to the “NRA’s Top Tone-Deaf List”.

So why is Dell’Aquila so irritated?

“I’ve been accused of ‘taking Bloomberg money’ or ‘doing Bloomberg’s work’ and of being ‘on the Bloomberg payroll’ to the point I’m sick of it,” he told me, “if I any of that were true, why would I have tried to work with the NRA leadership for fourteen months before going public with my concerns?”

“They call names, they make accusations, some of them flat-out lie to try and deflect from the fact that none of them have done their jobs - for years,” he continued, “and I have taken nothing, want nothing, and am looking for nothing other than a cleanup of the organization I’ve given more than $100,000 to over the last few years. They’ve ravaged the finances and now they’re accusing me of being the problem.”

“No more,” he says, and he’s calling their bluff.

“I haven’t said anything that the facts won’t confirm,” he said, “and I have one million bucks -of my own money- that says Wayne LaPierre can’t prove any connection between me and the Bloomberg campaign.”

“If Mr. LaPierre will stand up in front of me, make his case and let impartial judges listen to the facts, not the claims or accusations, and decide he’s done nothing wrong, I’ll hand him the one million bucks.”

“That might not be much money to a guy who’s spending that kind of money routinely on lawyers, travel and stuff, but that’s a lot of money to most of us- especially the members who live paycheck to paycheck and scrap together what they can to pay their annual dues – these are members who want to know where all their money went,” he said, “but I’m confident of two things: he can’t prove any accusations about me - and he’s not about to stand up in front of people and answer questions- even for a million bucks. That’s why the Attorneys General are the only chance we have to get answers.”

Like I said, Dell’Aquila’s pissed.

—Jim Shepherd