A newly revealed check written by the National Rifle Association appears to upend its account of plans to buy a $6 million Texas safe space for its chief, Wayne LaPierre.
The check – published on Monday by the Wall Street Journal – shows the NRA sending $70,000 to the Delaware-registered WBB Investments LLC for the mansion’s purchase. The payment was reportedly earnest money for a lavish home that would protect LaPierre in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting.
Worried about being targeted in the aftermath of Parkland, LaPierre reportedly wanted to be provided with a community gated from public outrage, with a golf course, stocked fishing pond, and obscene mishmash of architectural styles to boot.
The question is: Who was going to pay for LaPierre’s peace of mind?
The newly revealed check appears to show that NRA money was set to be involved in the purchase. In response to the WSJ report, the gun group claimed that LaPierre shut down the transaction once he learned that money from NRA was involved.
That would appear to chip away at the NRA’s earlier assertion that its longtime ad firm Ackerman McQueen had masterminded the purchase in a bid “to spend the NRA’s money” on a home for LaPierre.
In a statement to TPM, the NRA said that once LaPierre “became fully aware of the true arrangement and suggested terms, he requested that any advanced NRA funds be immediately returned.”
“Those funds were promptly returned – and Mr. LaPierre shut down the arrangement in its entirety,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in the statement.
Ackerman, with whom the NRA is locked in a series of court battles, accuses LaPierre himself of trying to move NRA money through Ackerman to buy the home, conceding that an Ackerman attorney created WBB Investments for the effort, but backed out once the nature of the deal became clear.
Jeff Watson, the real estate agent listed for the property, told TPM that he knew nothing of the potential deal.
The NRA did not reply to additional queries regarding precisely when LaPierre learned of the “true arrangement” or what his potential knowledge was of the deal before he became “fully aware,” but noted that the money was returned to the NRA and that the house was never purchased.
In its initial statement, the NRA contended that the idea to give LaPierre refuge from the angry masses in a multi-million-dollar mansion came from Angus McQueen, an Ackerman executive who died last month.
In a statement to TPM, an Ackerman spokesman called the NRA’s position “patently false.”
“Blaming the recently deceased Angus McQueen, a man who lived his life honorably and honestly, for decisions made by Wayne LaPierre is not the most surprising thing the NRA would try in these troubled times but it is one of the most shameful,” the statement reads.
Ackerman went on to accuse LaPierre of choosing “to proactively propose” the plan “to purchase a new residence,” which the Oklahoma City firm said it refused to proceed with.
“In fact, Mr. LaPierre’s actions in this regard led to Ackerman McQueen’s loss of faith in Mr. LaPierre’s decision-making,” the statement reads.
Registered in New York, the NRA is subject to the state’s strict charities laws. Those regulations forbid non-profits from so-called “excess benefit transactions,” whereby charity money is used for the personal benefit of the entity’s leadership.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the NRA in part over allegations that the gun group has violated these regulations.
The Washington Post reported last week that James had obtained records relating to the proposed deal. ProPublica reported that the NRA’s internal accountants flagged the transfer as in potential violation of the non-profit’s internal controls.