'A Cabal of Cronyism': Quarter of NRA's Unpaid Board Members Got Money From the Group as Top Exec Spending Soared, Report Says

At least a quarter of the National Rifle Association's supposedly unpaid board members have actually received money from the group, according to a Washington Post report.

In total, as many as 18 members of the gun rights association's 76-member board, which is tasked with overseeing the NRA's finances, have received money from the association in the last three years alone, the Post reported Sunday, citing tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence.

The newspaper found that the payments were being made by the NRA, NRA Foundation or vendors working with the group. They included $50,000 to musician Ted Nugent for scheduled appearances, as well as $400,000 to former NFL player Dave Butz for public outreach and consulting services and $3.1 million to firearms executive Pete Brownell for products. Both Butz and Brownell no longer serve on the board, however.

Former basketball player Karl Malone, who is on the NRA's board, but said he has not received any money from the group, told the post that he was concerned by the allegations.

"If these allegations are correct and 18 board members received pay, you're damn right I am," he said. "If it's correct, the members who pay their dues should be damn concerned, too," he added.

The Post's findings come as the NRA continues to reel from allegations of lavish spending by top association executives, including by CEO Wayne LaPierre, who was found to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing items and travel.

In the wake of the reports, former Republican congressman and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, a two-term NRA board member, demanded LaPierre's resignation, describing the NRA as a "cabal of cronyism."

Tax experts have warned that the reported payments made to board members could potentially represent conflicts of interest, given that the board monitors the group's finances.

"In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this," Douglas Varley, an attorney at Washington's Caplin & Drysdale, told the Post. The "volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders," he said, "is really astonishing."

While the attorney said he did not see any clear violations of the law, "the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organization is serving."

In a statement sent to Newsweek, NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam said that the group believes the Post's reporting "provides a distorted view of the NRA's arrangements relating to our board members or the companies they represent."

"That said, The Washington Post does concede that independent experts do not see any violations of the law and they note that the NRA properly disclosed any payments that were made," he said.

"In the close-knit community of gun rights supporters and the NRA, connections between employees or board members and strategic partners are not unusual," Arulanandam added. "And, in our case, such arrangements work in the best interest of the NRA and the members we serve."

In a statement last month, a dozen of the association's board members also said that they have "full confidence in the NRA's accounting practices and commitment to good governance."

NRA protest
Thousands of people, many of them students, march against gun violence in Manhattan during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in New York City. Getty/Spencer Platt

This article has been updated with a statement from the NRA.