1. Have a bug-out kit ready at all times. Many of these folks packed at the last minute, grabbing whatever they thought they’d need. Needless to say, they forgot some important things (prescription medications, important documents, baby formula, diapers, etc.). Some of these things (e.g. prescriptions) obviously can’t be stocked up against possible emergency need, but you can at least have a list in your bug-out kit of what to grab at the last minute before you leave!
2. Renew supplies in your bug-out kit on a regular basis. Batteries lose their charge. Foods have an expiration date. So do common medications. Clothes can get moldy or dirty unless properly stored. All of these problems were found with the folks who kept backup or bug-out supplies on hand, and caused difficulties for them.
3. Plan on needing a LOT more supplies than you think. I found myself with over 30 people on hand, many of whom were not well supplied: and the stores were swamped with literally thousands of refugees, buying up everything in sight. I had enough supplies to keep myself going for 30 days. Guess what? Those supplies ended up keeping 30-odd people going for two days. I now know that I must plan on providing for not just myself, but others in need. I could have been selfish and said “No, these are mine” – but what good would that do in a real disaster? Someone would just try to take them, and then we’d have all the resulting unpleasantness. Far better to have extra supplies to share with others, whilst keeping your own core reserve intact (and, preferably, hidden from prying eyes!).
4. In a real emergency, forget about last-minute purchases. As I said earlier, the stores were swamped by thousands of refugees, as well as locals buying up last-minute supplies. If I hadn’t had my emergency supplies already, I would never have been able to buy them at the last minute. If I’d had to hit the road, the situation would have been even worse, as I’d be part of a stream of thousands of refugees, most of whom would be buying (or stealing) what they needed before I got to the store.
5. Make sure your vehicle will carry your essential supplies. Some of the folks who arrived at my place had tried to load up their cars with a humongous amount of stuff, only to find that they didn’t have space for themselves! Pets are a particular problem here, as they have to have air and light, and can’t be crammed into odd corners. If you have to carry a lot of supplies and a number of people, invest in a small luggage trailer or something similar (or a small travel trailer with space for your goodies) – it’ll pay dividends if the S really does HTF.
6. A big bug-out vehicle can be a handicap. Some of the folks arrived here with big pick-ups or SUV’s, towing equally large travel trailers. Guess what? On some evacuation routes, these huge combinations could not navigate corners very well, and/or were so difficult to turn that they ran into things (including other vehicles, which were NOT about to make way in the stress of an evacuation!). This led to hard feelings, harsh words, and at least one fist-fight. It’s not a bad idea to have smaller, more maneuverable vehicles, and a smaller travel trailer, so that one can “squeeze through” in a tight traffic situation. Another point: a big SUV or pickup burns a lot of fuel. This is bad news when there’s no fuel available! (See point 10 below.)
7. Make sure you have a bug-out place handy. I was fortunate in having enough ground (about 1.8 acres) to provide parking for all these RV’s and trailers, and to accommodate 11 small children in my living-room so that the adults could get some sleep on Sunday night, after many hours on the road in very heavy, slow-moving traffic. However, if I hadn’t had space, I would have unhesitatingly told the extra families to find somewhere else – and there wasn’t anywhere else here, that night. Even shops like Wal-Mart and K-Mart had trailers and RV’s backed up in their parking lots (which annoyed the heck out of shoppers trying to make last-minute purchases). Even on my property, I had no trailer sewage connections, so I had to tell the occupants that if they used their onboard toilets and showers, they had to drive their RV’s and trailers somewhere else to empty their waste tanks. If they hadn’t left this morning, they would have joined long, long lines to do this at local trailer parks (some of which were so overloaded by visiting trailers and RV’s that they refused to allow passers-by to use their dumping facilities).
8. Provide entertainment for younger children. Some of these families had young children (ranging from 3 months to 11 years). They had DVD’s, video games, etc. – but no power available in their trailers to show them! They had no coloring books, toys, etc. to keep the kids occupied. This was a bad mistake.
9. Pack essentials first, then luxuries. Many of these folks had packed mattresses off beds, comforters, cushions, bathrobes, etc. As a result, their vehicles were grossly overloaded, but often lacked real essentials like candles, non-perishable foods, etc. One family (both parents are gourmet cooks) packed eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN!!!) special pots and pans, which they were going to use on a two-burner camp stove. They were horrified by my suggestion that under the circumstances, a nested stainless-steel camping cookware set would be rather more practical. “What? No omelet pan?” Sheesh…
10. Don’t plan on fuel being available en route. A number of my visitors had real problems finding gas to fill up on the road. With thousands of vehicles jammed nose-to-tail on four lanes of interstate, an awful lot of vehicles needed gas. By the time you got to a gas station, you were highly likely to find it sold out – or charging exorbitant prices, because the owners knew you didn’t have any choice but to pay what they asked. Much better to leave with a full tank of gas, and enough in spare containers to fill up on the road, if you have to, in order to reach your destination.
11. Have enough money with you for at least two weeks. Many of those who arrived here had very little in cash, relying on check-books and credit cards to fund their purchases. Guess what? Their small banks down in South Louisiana were all off-line, and their balances, credit authorizations, etc. could not be checked. As a result, many shops refused to accept their checks, and insisted on electronic verification before accepting their credit cards. Local banks also refused (initially) to cash checks for them, since they couldn’t check the status of their accounts on-line. Eventually (and very grudgingly) local banks began allowing them to cash checks for not more than $50-$100, depending on the bank. Fortunately, I have a reasonable amount of cash available at all times, so I was able to help some of them. I’m now going to increase my cash on hand, I think. Another thing – don’t bring only large bills. Many gas stations, convenience stores, etc. won’t accept anything larger than a $20 bill. Some of my guests had plenty of $100 bills, but couldn’t buy anything.
12. Don’t be sure that a disaster will be short-term. My friends have left now, heading south to Baton Rouge. They want to be closer to home for whenever they’re allowed to return. Unfortunately for them, the Governor has just announced the mandatory, complete evacuation of New Orleans, and there’s no word on when they will be allowed back. It will certainly be several weeks, and it might be several months. During that period, what they have with them – essential documents, clothing, etc. – is all they have. They’ll have to find new doctors to renew prescriptions; find a place to live (a FEMA trailer if they’re lucky – thousands of families will be lining up for these trailers); some way to earn a living (their jobs are gone with New Orleans, and I don’t see their employers paying them for not working when the employers aren’t making money either); and so on.
13. Don’t rely on government-run shelters if at all possible. Your weapons WILL be confiscated (yes, including pocket-knives, kitchen knives, and Leatherman-type tools); you’ll be crowded into close proximity with anyone and everyone (including some nice folks, but also including drug addicts, released convicts, gang members, and so on); you’ll be under the authority of the people running the shelter, who WILL call on law enforcement and military personnel to keep order (including stopping you leaving if you want to); and so on. Much, much better to have a place to go to, a plan to get there, and the supplies you need to do so on your own.
14. Warn your friends not to bring others with them!!! I had told two friends to bring themselves and their families to my home. They, unknown to me, told half-a-dozen other families to come too – “He’s a good guy, I’m sure he won’t mind!” Well, I did mind . . . but since the circumstances weren’t personally dangerous, I allowed them all to hang around. However, if things had been worse, I would have been very nasty indeed to their friends (and even nastier to them, for inviting others without clearing it with me first!). If you offer a place of refuge for your friends, make sure they know that this applies to them ONLY, not their other friends. Similarly, if you have someone willing to offer you refuge, don’t presume on his/her hospitality by arriving with others unforewarned.
15. Have account numbers, contact addresses and telephone numbers for all important persons and institutions. My friends will now have to get new postal addresses, and will have to notify others of this: their doctors, insurance companies (medical, personal, vehicle and property), bank(s), credit card issuer(s), utility supplier(s), telephone supplier(s), etc. – basically, anyone who sends them bills, or to whom they owe money, or who might owe them money. None of my friends brought all this information with them. Now, when they need to change postal addresses for correspondence, insurance claims, etc., how can they do this when they don’t know their account numbers, what number to call, who and where to write, etc.?
16. Have portable weapons and ammo ready to hand. Only two of my friends were armed, and one of them had only a handgun. The other had a handgun for himself, another for his wife, a shotgun, and an evil black rifle – MUCH better! I was asked by some of the other families, who’d seen TV reports of looting back in New Orleans, to lend them firearms. I refused, as they’d never handled guns before, and thus would have been more of a danger to themselves and other innocent persons than to looters. If they’d stayed a couple of days, so that I could teach them the basics, that would have been different: but they wouldn’t, so I didn’t. Another thing – you don’t have to take your entire arsenal along. Firearms for personal defense come first, then firearms for life support through hunting (and don’t forget the skinning knife!). A fishing outfit might not be a bad idea either (you can shoot something to use as bait, if necessary). Other than that, leave the rest of your guns in the safe (you do have a gun safe, securely bolted to the floor, don’t you?), and the bulk ammo supplies too. Bring enough ammo to keep you secure, but no more. If you really need bulk supplies of guns and ammo, they should be waiting for you at your bug-out location, not occupying space (and taking up a heck of a lot of weight!) in your vehicle. (For those bugging out in my direction, ammo supply will NOT be a problem . . . )
Here are some more ideas.
1. Route selection is very, very important. My friends (and their friends) basically looked at the map, found the shortest route to me, and followed it slavishly. This was a very bad idea, as something over half-a-million other folks had the same route in mind . . . Some of them took over twelve hours for what is usually a four-hour journey. If they’d used their heads, they would have seen (and heard, from radio reports) that going North up I-55 to Mississippi would have been much faster. There was less traffic on this route, and they could have turned left and hit Natchez, MS, and then cut across LA on Route 84. This would have taken them no more than five or six hours, even with the heavier evacuation traffic. Lesson: think outside the box, and don’t assume that the shortest route on the map in terms of distance will also be the shortest route in terms of time.
2. Keep in mind the social implications of a disaster situation. Feedback from my contacts in the Louisiana State Police (LSP) and other agencies is very worrying. They keep harping on the fact that the “underclass” that’s doing all the looting is almost exclusively Black and inner-city in composition. The remarks they’re reporting include such statements as “I’m entitled to this stuff!”, “This is payback time for all Whitey’s done to us”, and “This is reparations for slavery!”. Also, they’re blaming the present confused disaster-relief situation on racism. “Fo sho, if Whitey wuz sittin’ here in tha Dome waitin’ for help, no way would he be waitin’ like we is!” No, I’m not making up these comments… they are as reported by my law enforcement buddies.
This worries me very much. If we have such a divide in consciousness among our city residents, then when we hit a SHTF situation, we’re likely to be accused of racism, paternalism, oppression, and all sorts of other crimes just because we want to preserve law and order. If we, as individuals and families, provide for our own needs in emergency, and won’t share with others (whether they’re of another race or not) because we don’t have enough to go round, we’re likely to be accused of racism rather than pragmatism, and taking things from us can (and probably will) be justified as “Whitey getting his just desserts”. I’m absolutely not a racist, but the racial implications of the present situation are of great concern to me. The likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and the “reparations for slavery” brigade appear to have so polarized inner-city opinion that these folks are (IMHO) no longer capable of rational thought concerning such issues as looting, disaster relief, etc.
3. Implications for security. If one has successfully negotiated the danger zone, one will be in an environment filled, to a greater or lesser extent, with other evacuees. How many of them will have provided for their needs? How many of them will rely on obtaining from others (by hook or by crook) the things they need? In the absence of immediate State or relief-agency assistance, how many of them will feel “entitled” to obtain these necessities any way they have to, up to and including looting, murder and mayhem? Large gathering-places for refugees suddenly look rather less desirable . . . and being on one’s own, or in an isolated spot with one’s family, also looks less secure. One has to sleep sometime, and while one sleeps, one is vulnerable. Even one’s spouse and children might not be enough . . . there are always going to be vulnerabilities. One can hardly remain consciously in Condition Yellow while bathing children or making love! A team approach might be a viable solution here – see point 6 below.
4. There are “too many chiefs, not enough Indians” in New Orleans at the moment. The mayor has already blown his top about the levee breach: he claims that he had a plan in place to fix it by yesterday evening, but was overruled by the State government in Baton Rouge, who sent in others to do something different. This may or may not be true . . . My LSP buddies tell me that they’re getting conflicting assignments and/or requests from different organizations and individuals. One will send out a group to check a particular area for survivors: but when they get there, they find no-one, and later learn that another group has already checked and cleared the area. Unfortunately, in the absence of centralized command and control, the information is not being shared amongst all recovery teams. Also, there’s alleged to be conflict between City officials and State functionaries, with both sides claiming to be “running things”. Some individuals in the Red Cross, FEMA, and other groups appear to be refusing to take instructions from either side, instead (it’s claimed) wanting to run their own shows. This is allegedly producing catastrophic confusion and duplication of effort, and may even be making the loss of life worse, in that some areas in need of rescuers aren’t getting them. (I don’t know if the same problems are occurring in Mississippi and/or Alabama, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.) All of this is unofficial and off-the-record, but it doesn’t surprise me to hear it. Moral of the story: if you want to survive, don’t rely on the government or any government agency (or private relief organization, for that matter) to save you. Your survival is in your own hands – don’t drop it!
5. Long-term vision. This appears to be sadly lacking at present. Everyone is focused on the immediate, short-term objective of rescuing survivors. However, there are monumental problems looming, that need immediate attention, but don’t seem to be getting it right now. For example: the Port of Louisiana is the fifth-largest in the world, and vital to the economy, but the Coast Guard is saying (on TV) that they won’t be able to get it up and running for three to six months, because their primary focus is on search and rescue, and thereafter, disaster relief. Why isn’t the Coast Guard pulled off that job now, and put to work right away on something this critical? There are enough Navy, Marine and Air Force units available now to take over rescue missions.
Another example: there are over a million refugees from the Greater New Orleans area. They need accommodation and food, sure: but most of them are now unemployed, and won’t have any income at all for the next six to twelve months. There aren’t nearly enough jobs available in this area to absorb this workforce. What is being done to find work for them, even in states remote from the problem areas? The Government for sure won’t provide enough for them in emergency aid to be able to pay their bills. What about mortgages on properties that are now underwater? The occupants can’t and won’t pay, but the mortgage holders will demand payment. We could end up with massive foreclosures on property that is worthless, leaving a lot of folks neck-deep in debt and without homes (even damaged ones). What is being done to plan for this, and alleviate the problem as much as possible? I would have thought that the State government would have had at least the skeleton of an emergency plan for these sorts of things, and that FEMA would have the same, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Why weren’t these things considered in the leisurely days pre-disaster, instead of erupting as immediate and unanswered needs post-disaster?
6. Personal emergency planning. This leads me to consider my own emergency planning. I’ve covered my own evacuation needs, and could probably survive with relative ease for between two weeks and one month: but what if I had been caught up in this mess? What would I do about earning a living, paying mortgages, etc.? If I can’t rely on the State, I for darn sure had better be able to rely on myself! I certainly need to re-examine my insurance policies, to ensure that if disaster strikes, my mortgage, major loans, etc. will be paid off (or that I will receive enough money to do this myself). I also need to provide for my physical security, and must ensure that I have supplies, skills and knowledge that will be “marketable” in exchange for hard currency in a post-disaster situation. The idea of a “team” of friends with (or to) whom to bug out, survive, etc. is looking better and better. Some of the team could take on the task of keeping a home maintained (even a camp-type facility), looking after kids, providing base security, etc. Others could be foraging for supplies, trading, etc. Still others could be earning a living for the whole team with their skills. In this way, we’d all contribute to our mutual survival and security in the medium to long term. Life might be a lot less comfortable than prior to the disaster, but at least we’d still have a life! This bears thinking about, and I might just have to start building “team relationships” with nearby people of like mind.
7. The “bank problem.” This bears consideration. I was at my bank this morning, depositing checks I’d been given by my visitors in exchange for cash. The teller warned me bluntly that it might be weeks before these checks could be credited to my account, as there was no way to clear them with their issuing banks, which were now under water and/or without communications facilities. He also told me that there had been an endless stream of folks trying to cash checks on South Louisiana banks, without success. He warned me that some of those banks will almost certainly fail, as they don’t have a single branch above water, and the customers and businesses they served are also gone – so checks drawn on them will eventually prove worthless. Even some major regional banks had run their Louisiana “hub” out of New Orleans, and now couldn’t access their records. I think it might be a good idea to have a “bug-out bank account” with a national bank, so that funds should be available anywhere they have a branch, rather than keeping all one’s money in a single bank (particularly a local one) or credit union. This is, of course, over and above one’s “bug-out stash” of ready cash.
8. Helping one’s friends is likely to prove expensive. I estimate that I’m out over $1,000 at the moment, partly from having all my supplies consumed, and partly from making cash available to friends who couldn’t cash their checks. I may or may not get some of this back in due course. I don’t mind it – if I were in a similar fix, I hope I could turn to my friends for help in the same way, after all – but I hadn’t made allowance for it. I shall have to do so in future, as well as planning to contribute to costs incurred by those who offer me hospitality under similar circumstances.
A South Carolina distributor of guns and other outdoors supplies that was launched during the Great Depression filed for bankruptcy Monday, a few weeks after a financier alleged that the majority shareholder took about $189 million in loans out of the business.
SportsCo Holdings Inc., which owns Chapin-based Ellett Brothers and several other subsidiaries, said it plans to liquidate its holdings, citing excessive debt and inventory.
CEO Bradley Johnson said in a court filing that the company’s prediction that the Democrats would hold onto the White House in 2016 backfired after a projected jump in firearms sales didn’t materialize.
He also blamed SportCo’s downfall on “significant” disruptions within the outdoors retail industry in recent years, including the acquisition of Cabela’s by Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain’s bankruptcy and hurricanes that struck the Southeast U.S.
The Midlands company traces its roots to the 1933 founding of Ellett Brothers. SportCo, which is the holding company, has five distribution centers, including one each in Chapin and Newberry, and it employs about 320 workers, according to a bankruptcy filing.
The majority owner is Wellspring Capital Management, a New York private equity firm that’s bought the business in 2008 and is now facing a lawsuit over its handling of tens of millions of dollars in borrowed funds.
Prospect Capital Corp. is alleging that the $160 million in financing to provided Ellett Brothers in 2012 and 2013 was never invested in the business, according to the complaint it filed May 23 in Lexington County.
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Instead, Wellspring distributed $134 million and another $54.8 million, with most of the money going to the controlling shareholder. The payouts also included credit from other lenders, Prospect said.
The transfers “provided no value” to Ellett Brothers and its affilates while helping to contribute to “a complete financial collapse,” according to the lawsuit
“Since making the distributions … and despite a historic industrywide increase in sales, Ellett and its many subsidiaries have lost a substantial amount of their assets and business value,” Prospect Capital said.
Wellspring also collected $6 million in management fees from its South Carolina investment between 2009 and 2017, according to the lawsuit. The private equity firm could not be reached for immediate comment Monday.
SportsCo and its affilates sought protection from its creditors in Delaware, listing debts of between $100 million and $500 million and assets of less than $50 million. The companies plan to keep operating during the liquidation process.
The first hearing in the bankruptcy case is scheduled for Tuesday.
Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott
____________________________________ Also remember that the Gun Industry has literally flooded the Market with Black Guns. Which did not help things. Since no matter what you sell. The Market can only buy so much of one product.
On the other hand there is a steady market for well built Bolt Actions and Old School Pistols like the Python. But that is just my opinion! Anyone out there want to comment on this? Grumpy
NRA money flowed to board members amid allegedly lavish spending
Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig
A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $US400,000 ($NZ600,953) by the US lobby group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training.
Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $US28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum.
The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years to members of its board – the very people tasked with overseeing the organisation’s finances.
In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group in the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post
The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigour of the board’s oversight as it steered America’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime
The NRA, founded in 1871 to promote gun safety and training, relies heavily on its 5 million members for dues. Some supporters are rebelling publicly and questioning its leadership.
“I will be the first person to get in your face about defending the Second Amendment, but I will not defend corruption and cronyism and fearmongering,” said Vanessa Ross, a Philadelphia-area bakery owner and lifetime NRA member who previously worked at the Virginia headquarters managing a programme for disabled shooters.
Among the revelations that have burst into public view: CEO Wayne LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel, invoices show.
Oliver North, forced out as president after trying to oust LaPierre, was set to collect millions of dollars in a deal with the NRA’s now-estranged public relations agency, Ackerman McQueen, according to LaPierre.
And the NRA’s outside attorney reaped “extraordinary” legal fees that totalled millions of dollars in the past year, according to North.
The duelling allegations, coupled with multimillion-dollar shortfalls in recent years and an ongoing investigation by the New York attorney general, threaten the potency of the NRA, long a political juggernaut and a close ally of President Donald Trump.
The NRA said that its finances are healthy and that the allegations of misspending are unfounded. In a statement last month, a dozen board members said they have “full confidence in the NRA’s accounting practices and commitment to good governance”. LaPierre declined to comment.
The gun rights organisation’s board includes firearms industry executives, conservative leaders, gun enthusiasts, and a handful of sports and entertainment celebrities.
Among its members, whose names are not listed on the NRA website, are former Republican Representative Bob Barr, former NBA star Karl Malone and Joe Allbaugh, who served as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the George W. Bush administration. (The three are not among the directors the NRA reported paying.)
After learning about the money his fellow board members received, Malone said he was concerned.
“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.”
The NRA does not require board members to donate or raise funds for the group, as many nonprofit organisations do. They do not have term limits.
State and federal laws allow members of nonprofit boards to do business with their organisations under certain guidelines. The IRS can impose penalties if top officials and their families receive economic benefits that exceed fair market value.
Tax experts said the numerous payments to certain NRA directors create potential conflicts of interest that could cloud the board’s independent monitoring of the organisation’s finances.
“In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this,” said Douglas Varley, a Washington attorney at Caplin & Drysdale who specialises in tax-exempt organisations and reviewed the NRA’s federal and state filings from 2016 through 2018 for The Washington Post.
“The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing.”
Varley said he did not see any apparent violations of the law, and noted that the NRA, for the most part, appeared to have properly disclosed the payments.
“But the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organisation is serving,” he said. “Is it being run for the benefit of the gun owners in the country and the public? Or is it being run as a business-generating enterprise for officers and employees of the organisation?”
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the number of financial relationships between directors and the NRA is “small”, considering the size of the board and the organisation.
He called the gun rights movement “a close-knit community comprised of partners and vendors who understand the issue and are defenders of the Second Amendment”.
Because gun-control groups have pressured companies into not doing business with the NRA, Arulanandam said, “the pool becomes smaller. Therefore, connections between employees or board members and partners are not unusual.”
William Brewer, an outside attorney for the NRA, said business arrangements with directors are approved “where appropriate” by the board’s audit committee.
“Naturally, there are occasions where the NRA engages vendors who have a connection to NRA executives, employees or board members – but only when such an association works in the best interest of the organisation and its members,” he said.
The NRA provided The Post with a copy of its conflict-of-interest policy, which states that approval by the audit committee is not required for minor transactions, reimbursement of expenses or “transactions and activities undertaken in the ordinary course of business by NRA staff”.
According to the policy, board members “owe a duty of loyalty to the NRA and must act in good faith and in the NRA’s best interests rather than in their own interests or the interests of another entity or person”.
Board members who spoke to The Post defended their ability to serve as fiscal watchdogs while collecting fees.
Former NRA President David Keene, who has been paid $US112,000 by the group for public speaking and consulting since 2017, said he has “never hesitated to exercise the oversight required of a board member and would gladly give up any compensation if I thought for a minute it was compromising my judgment or responsibility”.
“NRA board members as a group tend to be both forthright and bullheaded, so I cannot imagine any of them would let a few dollars affect their judgment,” he added.
SHOWDOWN IN INDIANAPOLIS
In late April, the NRA’s annual meeting was getting underway in Indianapolis when members of the board received an alarming letter from LaPierre, who has run the gun lobby for decades.
In it, he wrote that North had warned that the group’s longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, was going to release information alleging “a devastating account of our financial status”. LaPierre said North indicated that the missive would not be sent if LaPierre resigned.
The NRA chief hinted that North was compromised – conflicted between his duties to the board and his personal financial interests, noting that the retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel had signed a contract with Ackerman to host an NRA documentary series for “millions of dollars annually”.
“I believe our Board and devoted members will see this for what it is: a threat meant to intimidate and divide us,” LaPierre concluded.
The next day, North was forced to resign. But in a parting letter, he warned that the organisation’s finances were in “clear crisis.”
The board sided with LaPierre, reelecting him unanimously, according to NRA officials.
“We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members,” said Carolyn Meadows, who replaced North as president.
Attorneys for North declined to comment.
Since then, the NRA has faced a steady drip of allegations about improper spending.
Letters from Ackerman’s CFO to LaPierre, first reported by The Wall Street Journal and obtained by The Post, detailed large expenses billed by LaPierre, including nearly $US275,000 in personal charges at a Beverly Hills men’s store and more than $US253,000 in luxury travel to locations such as Italy, Budapest and the Bahamas. Bills also show $US13,800 to rent an apartment for a summer intern.
In another letter, North warned top officials that huge fees charged by the Brewer law firm – which he said appeared to total $US24 million in the previous 13 months – were “draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed”. Brewer is the son-in-law of Angus McQueen, the CEO of the NRA’s longtime ad firm.
In the wake of the revelations, Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, a former Republican congressman from Florida and two-term NRA board member, called for LaPierre to resign, describing “a cabal of cronyism”.
NRA officials said that LaPierre’s wardrobe allowance began 15 years ago and that he was urged by Ackerman to make the purchases for his public appearances, a practice that they said has since been discontinued. They said his travel was necessary for fundraising. The apartment was secured for a three-month summer internship when university housing typically used was unavailable, the NRA said.
NRA officials also said North’s memo describing the legal fees paid to the Brewer firm was “inaccurate”.
“It reflects a misinformed view of the firm, its billings, and its advocacy for the NRA,” said Charles Cotton, chairman of the NRA’s audit committee. “The board supports the work the firm is doing.” Brewer did not respond to a request for comment on his fees.
The swirl of allegations is being driven by the NRA’s increasingly acrimonious split from Ackerman, an Oklahoma-based firm that, with affiliated companies, received about $US40m from the nonprofit group in 2017, according to tax filings.
Ackerman has produced provocative ads and television shows that increasingly marked a departure from the NRA’s traditional focus on gun rights.
The gun lobby and the PR agency have sued each other in recent months, accusing each other of improper billing and deceit.
In a statement, Ackerman said it “followed the explicit directions” of NRA officials. The company said the NRA conducted an audit of its payments nearly every year and can justify all of its billings. “They could challenge any invoice, but they did not,” the company said.
The NRA has accused Ackerman of concealing records, which the firm denies, and breaching confidentiality by leaking information.
The feud comes amid an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, into the tax-exempt status of the organisation, which is chartered in New York. As part of the probe, her office has issued subpoenas to the NRA, as well as orders to NRA entities and vendors to preserve records, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Brewer, the NRA’s outside attorney, said the group complies with all regulations and is cooperating with the inquiry. “The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance,” he said.
Amid the turmoil, much of the NRA board has remained silent – or defended LaPierre’s spending.
“This is stale news – being recycled by those with personal agendas. In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues,” Meadows said in a statement.
The organisation has not hired an outside firm to conduct an investigation into the allegations of misspending, a measure that legal experts note is often taken by nonprofit boards in such situations. Brewer said NRA practices are already under “constant review” by top officials and the board.
Instead, NRA leaders say gun-control advocates are ginning up the controversies to sabotage the organisation. “Our financial house is in order – we aren’t going away,” read a May 22 letter to members signed by Meadows and 11 other board members, many of them former presidents of the organisation.
But some longtime NRA members are losing faith in the leadership – and considering walking away.
“You have these facts coming to light, what to most NRA members seem very unreasonable amounts spent on luxuries and conveniences,” said NRA member and firearms trainer Robert Pincus of Florida.
“And at the same time you have the NRA cold-calling and fundraising, claiming they are going to go bankrupt if they don’t get money to fight New York state,” Pincus said.
“Then you have the [new] president saying they are in great financial shape, all the financial problems of the past have been fixed. Those three messages don’t all go together.”
‘NOTHING NEFARIOUS ABOUT IT’
Federal and state filings show that the NRA has turned to its board members for a variety of paid services in the past three years – including to bring in new members.
Attorneys who specialise in nonprofit organisations said it is unusual for board members to be paid membership commissions for recruitment.
“Most groups lean on board members to give money, not for board members to get money,” said New York lawyer Daniel Kurtz. “I think the contributing public would look at that with a dim eye.”
Among those paid such commissions was board member Owen Mills, who runs Gunsite Academy, an Arizona firearms training facility, which received about $US11,000 in 2016 and 2017.
Mills defended the financial ties between board members and the NRA, saying they should be able to do business with the group as long as their prices are competitive.
“There’s nothing nefarious about it,” Mills said. “The NRA buys a lot of stuff. And so it wouldn’t be unusual to do business with your board members, and all of that is open to the public process.”
Since 2016, large sums have flowed to board members for consulting, public filings show. NRA officials provided additional details about the specifics of some of the work they did.
Lance Olson, a former police officer from Iowa, received a total of $US255,000 for outreach to gun collectors and fundraising, and Dave Butz, a former NFL player, received $US400,000 for public outreach and firearms training, according to the NRA.
Olson did not respond to requests for comment. Butz, who was not reelected to the board in April, declined to comment.
A firm run by White House communications aide Mercedes Schlapp, who resigned from the board when she joined the administration in 2017, received a total of $US85,000 in 2016 and 2017 for media strategy consulting.
She did not respond to requests for comment. Schlapp’s ability to represent the organisation in Spanish-language media “made her firm highly qualified”, the NRA said.
Longtime director and former NRA President Marion Hammer received at least $US610,000 in the past three years for consulting services and legislative lobbying in Florida. Hammer declined to comment.
In a statement, the group called her a “tireless supporter of the NRA’s fight to protect the Second Amendment”.
Director Bart Skelton, a writer in New Mexico, received at least $US28,750 over three years to produce articles for NRA publications and $US6550 in compensation in 2017. He did not respond to requests for comment.
NRA director and rock performer Ted Nugent’s company received $US50,000 for appearances at the 2016 NRA convention, while director and country music singer Craig Morgan’s company got $US23,500 for musical performances.
Neither responded to requests for comment.
In other cases, the NRA paid businesses run by members of its board.
The NRA Foundation, the group’s charitable arm, bought nearly $US3.1m in ammunition and other supplies in 2017 from Crow Shooting Supply, a business controlled by Pete Brownell, a former NRA director and president.
NRA officials and Brownell say the group began purchasing supplies from Crow before Brownell took over the company in 2011.
However, the first time the foundation disclosed the contract in tax filings was in 2017, as The Wall Street Journal first reported.
NRA officials said the foundation made the disclosure in 2017 “in an effort to provide greater visibility regarding the Foundation’s mission and activities”.
A spokesman for Brownell, who announced last week that he was stepping down from the board to focus on his business, said the contract was vetted by the audit committee.
“Crow is one of the only wholesalers in the country who can meet the programmes’ volume and shipping needs,” spokesman Ryan Repp said. “Pete takes his ethical obligations seriously,” Repp said, adding that Brownell abstained from voting on issues that directly affected his business.
The amount of money collected by one board member remains unknown because she was paid by Ackerman, the marketing agency. Julie Golob, a gun activist in Kansas City, Missouri, hosts and consults for NRA video programming produced by the firm, according to internal documents.
She declined to comment on how much she is paid or on her dual roles as NRA director and subcontractor. The NRA has said that the arrangement was approved by the audit committee and that Golob does not participate in discussions related to Ackerman.
In addition to the 18 board members paid in recent years, the NRA also reported paying an undisclosed amount to a son of board member James Porter, a former president of the group.
The son, who works for the Bradley law firm, has been involved in extensive litigation involving guns, according to his biography. Neither father nor son responded to requests for comment.
Another director, Republican Representative Don Young, received thousands of dollars in donations from the NRA’s political arm to his campaign. Young did not respond to a request for comment.
$US17M SHORTFALL IN 2017
Longtime NRA members said they are worried that allegations of insider dealing and big spending at the NRA could create the appearance of impropriety.
“The NRA cannot afford to give fodder to the public and to the media that we are anything but above board,” said Tiffany Johnson, a firearms instructor in Memphis and lifetime member.
“We can’t give anybody any reason to even intimate that we have impermissible conflicts of interest, that there is self-dealing.”
Compounding the situation are signs that the NRA’s finances are under strain.
Public filings show that the gun rights group – which spent $US31m to help elect Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, more than any other outside group – had a more than $US17m shortfall in 2017, the most recent tax filing available. That year, it collected nearly $US312m in revenue.
NRA officials said the organiSation is “on budget” this year and “meeting all banking and supplier obligations”.
But it is under intensifying scrutiny in Congress, where Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have been examining the group’s ties to Russia. That inquiry has expanded to include the allegations of self-dealing.
Meanwhile, the turmoil at the NRA has benefited some other gun rights organisations, which said they have seen an uptick in memberships and contributions.
“In recent months, we have seen an over-20 per cent increase in support,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of its sister organisation, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
He said donors are giving in response to “reports of lavish spending” at the NRA and the support for gun control among Democratic presidential contenders.
NRA directors say the current fracas has been overblown and will not inflict long-term damage.
“We are the most influential body representing firearms owners in the world,” said Mills, the director from Arizona, “and we will survive this little speed bump and come out all the stronger and remain the guardian of civil rights.”
Alligator hunting is one of Mississippi’s most challenging pursuits, and among some hunters it’s the most exciting. But those challenges can lead to a frustrating season for some. Ricky Flynt, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Alligator Program coordinator, explained some of the most common mistakes he sees.
“I’d have to say that the single most common mistake I see occurring among gator hunters is their failure to be prepared for the ‘Big One,'” Flynt said. “I’m not sure if it’s because they have low expectations of success, or if they simply are not experienced in what it takes to follow up after the harvest of a large alligator.
“For the most part, many hunters have never had their hands on a large alligator at all. It can be a little overwhelming for a first-timer once they are up close with a 10-foot or larger alligator and see just how cumbersome the carcass is to handle, much less to get it placed into cold storage.”
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Because alligator season occurs in the hottest part of the year, Flynt said hunters need to have a plan in advance to cool their gator.
“An alligator carcass can ruin in quick order once the sun rises if there is not already a contingency plan in place,” Flynt said. “Access to walk-in coolers are the best option, but there are alternatives that work well if a person is creative.”
Get it together
“The second most likely mistake has to do with being organized,” Flynt said. “Alligator hunting requires a lot of different equipment, gear, and supplies.
“Just finding a place to store all of the necessary and potential items to be used in a boat and still have enough room to walk around in the boat can be quite a task, much less have it organized. Things can get very exciting very quickly. It can be all hands on deck at the drop of a hat.”
Because of that, Flynt said success can greatly depend on a group’s ability to adapt quickly and have the necessary items needed for the situation at hand.
“That means that everyone in the hunting party knows where everything is located and can get to it quickly,” Flynt said. “So, being disorganized can be the difference in success and heartbreak.
“Prepare well ahead of the hunt. Use a check list and check items off as you prepare your vessel for the hunt.”
Watch and wait
According to Flynt, patience is a virtue when it comes to alligator hunting. Not only can it improve your success, it can improve the quality of hunts for others.
“Alligators, compared to humans, are very patient,” Flynt said. “It is nothing for an alligator to submerge upon the approach of a boat and just go lay on the bottom of the river for 10 to 20 minutes, maybe over an hour, then slowly and stealthily resurface a short distance away with nothing but their eyes and nostrils above the water surface.
“People who are not familiar with alligator habits can run themselves ragged up and down the river approaching alligators only to see them submerge, then aborting to move on down the river looking for another alligator. This type of hunting is less productive and creates more disturbance of alligators and other alligator hunters.”
Flynt recommends that if you see a gator you want to harvest and it submerges, stick with it, be quiet, keep your lights on and watch for bubbles, ripples or moving vegetation.
“If a hunter watches for these clues, there is no need to keep moving when the alligator you are wanting to hunt is right under your nose, so to speak,” Flynt said.
Although Flynt said all of his points are keys to a successful hunt, returning home alive and unharmed is the most important aspect of alligator hunting.
“Never take chances that could result in accidents that can result in serious mistakes, injuries or even death for yourself and others around you,” Flynt said. “Things can be very dangerous navigating the waterways at night. In fact, navigating the waters with multiple people and all of the equipment in the payload on a vessel is the most dangerous aspect of alligator hunting.”
• Wear personal floatation devices at all times.
• Follow boating regulations and have all safety gear on hand.
• Have first aid kits readily available.
• Keep cell phones in dry storage.
• Always make sure someone outside your hunting party knows the general location of where you will be hunting and where you are launching your boat.
• Keep plenty of water and sustainable food on board.
• Never consume alcohol while hunting.
And last, but not least, “Get plenty of rest,” Flynt said. “Alligator hunting can be extremely exhausting and an exhausted boat operator is a recipe for disaster.”