2017 – Director Apathy & Perceived Arrogance

Since we first “went public,” the Board has brought in new blood and seemingly has started to embrace more of a sense of accountability.  We applaud it, but think we’re still needed to be a voice of loyal dissent.  We don’t believe in “stirring the pot” for the sake of it, but there are still many areas that are in need of constructive criticism – moreso when it’s not welcomed in private conversations.  Good decisions and truth never fear questioning.

Our Association is making changes to its bylaws, and a lack of communication about the reasoning is leading to confusion and even some defensiveness and paranoia.  We get both sides of it.  It can be perceived as “circling the wagons” to keep the old guard secure from challenges, but it can also be a bulwark against having any anti-gun billionaires essentially install their own Board or simply buy enough memberships to bankrupt the organization through incessant – but legal by our bylaws – recall challenges.  Given the support we lent now-President Trump, the Association is likely to be the focus of attacks to neutralize our political effectiveness in the future.  This has us leaning towards supporting this move, but the concerns of membership who see this as “keeping out the riff raff” must be addressed for the sake of cohesion.

We don’t necessarily object to raising the bar for grassroots candidates, as the extra effort is likely to be less attractive to people who don’t actually care about their responsibility.  We worry, though, that it will give unfair advantage to celebrities, who may be more interested in the title than in the duties (see our earlier complaints about people such as Ted Nugent not attending meetings or charging for appearances).   It would be interesting to see if established Board members would be willing to run by petition as well, to prove both their engagement and support of the membership by subjecting their reinstatement to that higher signature threshold.

This would require effort, though, and we pointed out just last year that many Board members don’t even show up for meetings.  Perhaps this would be another bar to raise, if bylaws are being changed – require mandatory attendance for nomination for re-election.  At the very least, the attendance at these meetings should be made public.  If we cannot make this a matter of internal policy, then it will be up to the membership to demand it.  Our Association members now know who their Directors are and how to contact them.  Ask them to state whether or not they have attended meetings.  If not, demand that they earn your future vote by fulfilling their obligation to the organization as Board members.

The subject of perceived apathy also brings up another unresolved issue – many “old guard” Board members take their status so much for granted that they don’t even bother campaigning.  They are Board members now, they are nominated by a committee of their friends, they will be Board members again.  If the “new blood” grassroot candidates must earn their spot, so too should existing Directors.  We understand the need for industry inclusion and the draw of “known names,” but the ultimate question – as we have now asked for years – is this: What have you done for the organization and the Second Amendment rights of members since becoming a Board member?

A seat on the Board is an opportunity to work, not a reward for past – sometimes distant past – notoriety.  We cannot expect grassroots candidates to work even harder for election if our existing Board will not campaign, much less further the aims of our Association.  Demanding more of “the old guard” and having a nominating committee willing to ask hard questions of worth and effort would go a long way towards assuaging concerns about the fairness of the new policies.

Prime examples of this lack of effort:

Lance Olsen. Lance lost his seat last year after not even mounting a campaign to keep it.  He still managed to win the “76th seat” at the annual meeting, however, and it still being paid a salary by the Association for reasons completely unknown to us. Rather than taking his loss as a warning and changing his attitude, he is again making no effort to campaign to regain his seat nor is he making any indication of what he’s doing for the NRA that would justify continued payments.

Kim Rhode Hariman.  Kim is a very accomplished Olympian and holds one of our Association’s highest honors, an Honorary Life Membership.  Yet she has shown no interest in even mentioning that she is running for the Board.  We would welcome her perspective as a Director but cannot help but feel discouraged by her complete lack of promotion about her run, presuming that a nod from the nominating committee is preferable to justification of her worth to our members.

Examples of candidates taking the right approach:

Willes Lee and Graham Hill are running for re-election – and we all know it because they are campaigning!  Using social media and their own websites, they are clearly showing the membership what they are doing in their service.  This is the kind of accountability and respect for the members that other insiders should emulate, lest they find themselves on the outside looking in.

Adam Kraut and Stephanie Spika are likely to be the first of a new generation of young Board members to follow.   Adam is running an impressive grassroots campaign and illustrates how to show our members when you want a seat on the Board.  He would be the youngest board member by over ten years, is active in the NFA community, practices Second Amendment related law, and manages a gun store.   Stephanie is another young candidate and has made a marked improvement over her efforts last year, mounting a far more visible campaign via Facebook and her own website.  Our only concern with Stephanie is that her work for Safari Club International might conflict with an NRA Board position, but we leave that for our members to decide.

Other candidates to consider:

Stephen Stamboulieh.  Stephen is a Mississippi attorney who is, without question, a true believer in the Second Amendment and epitomizes the kind of “fire in the belly” that we need on our Board.  With no major backing or lobbying wing, he picked fights that virtually everyone – including the NRA – would not touch.  And he is winning most of them.  He had the audacity to sue then-AG Eric Holder and the ATF over Hughes Amendment abuses; he forced the FBI to reverse several NICS denials after they declared they were no longer processing appeals; he recently got New Jersey to acknowledge that their ban on tasers was unconstitutional; he is challenging New York on the same grounds.  If he has not run the kind of campaign we would normally prefer to see, it’s because he has been too busy fighting.  We need this man – and more like him – at the table.

Sean Maloney is a grassroots powerhouse that more members should know about and respect, and is unfathomable to us that he lost a previous Board seat while so many do-nothings retained theirs.  Sean is running an online campaign, as we would hope, maintaining his own site and Facebook page.  He is doing so while he is in the field doing work with members, presenting at Second Amendment speaking engagements, and running Second Call Defense, providing legal defense for concealed carriers.  Of the several candidates from Ohio on this year’s ballot, Sean is the only one has done anything in years.

Ted Carter earned his way onto the ballot through member petition as well as being named by the nominating committee.  Ted has never lost his shooting roots and remains an active ambassador to his sport and our rights.  Ted would offer a strong voice for our competitive shooters – something the Board sorely needs.

Heidi Washington is in a difficult position to run an active campaign, being the current head of the Michigan Department of Corrections.  The demands of this position have us somewhat concerned about her level of attention to Association business.  However, her familiarity with the NRA (her father was a past President) and her track record with the Michigan prison system lead us to believe she would make an excellent Board member capable of helping our organization trim some fat.  For that reason alone, we would happily campaign on her behalf.

On a closing note for this year, we would like to acknowledge J. William Carter, who has chosen to not run again.  He could have joined the ranks of dead weight, but had the integrity and honor to instead leave on his own terms, making room for new eyes and perspectives.  We offer Mr. Carter our thanks and respect.  He would have made a bold President of the NRA.

A Last-Ditch Effort to Protect the Integrity of the NRA Board of Directors