Exclusive: NRA Burning $100,000 to Relocate its Board Meeting from Alaska to Washington, D.C.

The National Rifle Association is spending around $100,000 to abruptly relocate its board meeting to Washington, D.C., according to an e-mail sent by the NRA's General Counsel and Secretary John Frazer that was obtained by Newsweek.

On Tuesday evening, Frazer announced to the board of directors that plans to hold its mid-September meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, were being canceled and redirected to the nation's capital as federal lawmakers consider several gun-control proposals.

But in a May 22 e-mail to top NRA officials, including the organization's CEO Wayne LaPierre and its newly installed CFO Craig Spray, Frazer announced that a previous analysis had concluded that moving the planned meeting would run up costs approaching $100,000, due both to cancellation fees with pre-arranged vendors and the higher price of room and board expenses in the D.C.-Metro area.

The NRA has received substantial criticism in recent months as reports and leaked memos have documented the group's lavish spending.

LaPierre was revealed to have spent $274,000 at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique over a decade, on the NRA's dime. He has also racked up around the same amount in luxury travel to Italy, Hungary and the Bahamas, among other destinations, trips he said included donor outreach on behalf of the NRA.

Gun Enthusiasts Attend NRA Annual Meeting In Indianapolis
Wayne LaPierre, NRA vice president and CEO attends the NRA annual meeting of members at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 27, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Scott Olson/Getty

Stakeholders are concerned about the NRA's ability to maintain its current spendthrift attitude. At one point, former NRA President Lt. Col. Oliver North wrote a memo to the board of directors claiming that invoices from the group's outside counsel were "draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed."

During the first quarter of 2019, the NRA was billed nearly $100,000 a day for the services of this attorney, William A. Brewer III.

The NRA has previously defended expenses associated with the overflowing financial management scandal that has rocked the group since April.

The relocation decision appears to have been influenced by a package of gun-control proposals that began to circulate around Capitol Hill in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton in early August. The e-mail announcing the change in venue noted that the NRA could more effectively influence Congress in close proximity to legislators as they consider these bills after the August recess.

Wayne Anthony Ross, who sits on the board of directors, told Newsweek that he was "disappointed" in the decision to relocate the meeting away from his home state.

"We worked for four or five years to get it approved by the board to come up here," he said in a conversation. "In 2005, we had the NRA board come to Alaska. We have the highest percentage of NRA members of any state in the union."

Ross said that he found out about the decision yesterday along with his board of directors colleagues, pursuant to Frazer's letter. He said that he was told the decision was made in just the last 48 to 72 hours, weeks after the introduction of gun control legislation on Capitol Hill became an immediately apparent prospect.

Ross emphasized that he's "not insulted" by the abandonment of Alaska as a host state "because we don't want to walk away from the fight" in D.C.

He was torn about the final decision though, saying that he thought Alaskans could have offered a more hospitable reception.

"When we have them come up here, the people are very generous and they provide a lot of things that they don't on the East Coast," Ross opined. "I might have argued that they weren't needed in Washington, but I don't know what the actual story was. If they feel it's necessary to protect the right to keep and bear arms, then I wont oppose it."

Members have complained that deciding to host the board meeting in Alaska in the first place made the organization less accessible and subject to less oversight.

Frazer himself voiced doubts in May, months before the decision to relocate was made, about whether it would even be possible to "find a [D.C.] location on relatively short notice."

"Most of our meetings are booked at least a year in advance, often on multi-meeting contracts to get better rates," he added.

His analysis came as a reply to an e-mail sent by Spray, who himself was responding to a query from a board member about whether it was truly impossible to relocate the meeting amid grassroots pushback.

"With little due respect, having the NRA [board of directors] meeting in Anchorage is nothing short of big-time stupid," the concerned director wrote. "In light of our present financial shortcomings, the blood-thirsty jackals of the progressive press, always nipping at our heels will have a hey-day with this one."

Spray deferred to Frazer in his reply, revealing that he himself "queried this same issue last fall when I was looking for ways to cut the budget."

Ultimately, it was determined last fall that "the cost to break the agreements would supersede any savings."

National Rifle Association Holds Its Annual Conference In Dallas, Texas
(L-R) Donald Trump Jr., U.S. President Donald Trump, former Executive Director NRA-ILA Chris Cox and NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre greet the crowd at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 4, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Initial news of the relocation was first reported by The New York Times and subsequently confirmed by Newsweek. But details about the extraordinary expense needed to realize the move have not previously been made public.

LaPierre has received a subpoena related to an ongoing lawsuit against the organization's former PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, The Daily Beast reported this week. The firm is also seeking to question Spray as part of its lawsuit.

Spray is a relatively new NRA executive, having left his most recent post as CFO of furniture company Knoll, Inc., only two years ago.

Attorneys general in two states, state regulators and a congressional committee are looking into the NRA's spending practices. Under New York State law, where the NRA is chartered, the group has a fiduciary responsibility towards its members and the public, requiring that any money received by the NRA is spent consistent with its non-profit mission.

Spray acknowledged in his e-mail, regarding the decision to convene the board in Alaska, that "the optics are bad." He suggested canceling the board meeting altogether, which he thought "would save some" money, even considering cancellation costs, or moving the meeting to a different location "at a cost penalty."

In his reply, Frazer maintained that canceling the meeting would not be possible because it would violate the NRA's bylaws, which require "three regular meetings of the Board of Directors in each year" and set forth approximate meeting times.

After the board member who sent the initial query asked for documentation regarding Frazer's claims, he responded that "under the current circumstances, I can't transmit sensitive materials like this."

"You're welcome to inspect them in person during your next visit to headquarters, or I can bring specific items to the next board meeting," Frazer wrote.

In the month of August alone, six members of the NRA's board of directors have resigned, and three of them specifically called out a pattern of obstruction they allege they were subjected to for trying to conduct basic oversight of the group's finances.

Part of these complaints include allegations that the organization refused to provide adequate documentation to board members who wanted to audit NRA spending.

A sign featuring the former President of the National Rifle Association Lt Col. Oliver L. North hangs outside of the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, April 27,2019 during the 2019 National Rifle Association Annual Meetings. SETH HERALD/Getty

A seventh NRA board member, Pete Brownell, resigned in May after the group's tumultuous annual meeting in Indianapolis that saw the ouster of North, who was at the time the group's president. A director who resigned this month, Richard Childress, previously co-signed North's memo raising flags about the NRA's financial relationship with Brewer, the outside counsel.

Two distinct factions have opened a chasm within NRA world, with a small contingent of board members holding their ground against LaPierre, who is currently supported by a majority of the board despite his central role in the financial scandal that has earned the group net-negative ratings from the public for the first time. Critics of LaPierre have been pushed out, including other outside attorneys representing the organization.

The Times has reported that former outside NRA attorney Charles J. Cooper was let go over his efforts to oppose LaPierre. But the NRA has also cast all skeptics of LaPierre's management as enemies and has sought to undermine constructive criticism from even loyal members.

A separate non-profit organization, Save The Second, has incorporated with the sole mission of reforming the culture and governance at the NRA. The group is helmed by longtime NRA members who say they represent grassroots supporters of the NRA whose frustrations are being overlooked by management.

In response to a request for comment, NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam wrote that the organization's "duty to protect our Second Amendment comes above all else and the NRA is the only organization that can carry out that mission.

"We will best serve the interests of our members if we are in closer proximity during this critical time," he said. "Quite simply, we cannot afford to be anywhere else while Congress deliberates gun bans and other gun control measures."

Along with Spray and LaPierre, Arulanandam was also sought for questioning by Ackerman McQueen as part of the firm's counterclaim against the NRA's lawsuit.

This story has been updated to include a statement from the NRA and to correct the name of the NRA director who co-signed North's memo. Comments from Ross, who is a member of the NRA's board, were included after publication.