WHY ARE NRA BOARD MEMBERS (WHITE IDIOTS) JUMPING SHIP?
In just a span of a few hours on Tuesday, news reports revealed that several National Rifle Association board members had resigned following a long string of recent defections, and that one of the organization's top lobbyists threw in the towel as well. This brings the total to seven directors on the NRA's board who have resigned since May.
The gun-rights group is enmeshed in political and financial turmoil, with a recent slump in member dues and overall contributions exacerbating an overarching financial scandal. And beyond the internal chaos, the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and New York have set their sights on the NRA and its charitable arm for investigations into the group's tax-exempt status.
"Continued leaks, accusations, and counter accusations have left a haze of conjecture surrounding our Association. It is our duty as a duly elected Board of Directors to dispel this cloud, right the Association's path and restore the trust of our members," a letter, penned by then-board members Esther Schneider, Timothy Knight and Sean Maloney ahead of their public resignations on August 1, read. "The NRA [must] engage outside professionals to conduct an independent, internal investigation and confidential audit into the allegations of financial misconduct."
Lt. Col. Robert Brown, the fourth signatory to the letter, remains on the board. But the resignations prompted uproar after the trio alleged they were stonewalled when trying to audit dubious financial arrangements.
In addition, one of the key responsibilities of a board member is to attend board meetings, a charge that many board members are accused of failing to uphold, in some cases for years.
"A lot of folks who join the board for their résumé later find out that there's more to it, and that they will have to make hard decisions and take sides," Andrew Lander, a former NRA employee and leading proponent of NRA reform, told Newsweek. "A lot of folks just don't want to do it."
Lander, who is a co-founder of the NRA reform group Save the Second, said he heard from some board members that "they can't even get access to NRA bylaws."
"As long as they're trying to conduct oversight and don't have impermissible conflicts, they're probably ok," Pace University School of Law professor James Fishman said.
What's more motivating in these cases, according to Fishman, is less the potential legal exposure and more the public admonishment. "In a non-profit situation, it's the shame aspect," he said. "That's the real penalty. It may well be that board members are saying to themselves, 'Who needs this aggravation? I don't want to sully my name.'" —Read more from Newsweek’s Asher Stockler
Nicole Goodkind is a political reporter at Newsweek. You can reach her on Twitter @NicoleGoodkind or by email, N.Goodkind@newsweek.com.