NRA CEO Wastes Members Money On Expensive And Personal Private Jet Use
Itineraries, other records show NRA paid for flights to and from Nebraska, where niece and her daughter live. NRA CEO Wastes Members Money On Expensive And Personal Private Jet Use
The National Rifle Association paid for private jets to fly to and from central Nebraska to ferry relatives of the group’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, according to travel itineraries, emails and aviation records reviewed by reports.
One such trip took place in April 2017, when Mr. LaPierre and his wife, Susan, returned from meetings and a Nascar race the NRA chief attended in the Dallas area, according to a travel itinerary reviewed by the Journal and a person familiar with the matter.
On the flight back to NRA headquarters near Washington, D.C., the jet detoured about 500 miles out of the way to Grand Island, Neb., “to pick up Colleen” and her daughter, the itinerary says.
Colleen Sterner, a niece of Susan LaPierre, lives in Nebraska and is a low-level employee of the gun-rights group. The LaPierres have no children and Mrs. LaPierre is close to her niece and her niece’s young daughter, according to people familiar with the matter.
Such a detour on that type of jet typically would cost about $5,000, according to two charter-jet operators.
An NRA spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, said that although Ms. Sterner typically flies on commercial airlines for her job, “she has occasionally traveled via private aircraft with NRA officials and vendors in connection with her professional responsibilities. On occasion, she has been transported to her area of residence in connection with such travel.”
The NRA didn’t respond to questions about the business purpose for taking Ms. Sterner’s daughter on trips with the LaPierres. Ms. Sterner didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The private-jet travel for Mr. LaPierre’s relatives is the latest revelation of questionable spending by the NRA chief, which has included more than $540,000 of travel and wardrobe expenses billed to an outside contractor and an aborted plan to use NRA money to buy a $6 million mansion for the NRA chief, according to NRA documents and documents related to the planned real estate deal reviewed by the Journal.
Mr. LaPierre, who has run the nonprofit NRA since 1991, has successfully fended off internal challenges over his expenses and purged opponents inside the gun-rights group. His expenses remain a focus of a continuing investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The NRA has said the expenses were justified for business purposes.
Susan LaPierre has an unpaid position as co-chair of the NRA’s Women’s Leadership Forum, which holds occasional events around the country. Her 40-year-old niece, Ms. Sterner, works in fundraising for that NRA women’s group and is paid about $70,000 a year, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The NRA declined to discuss any specific flights that Ms. Sterner was on. The Journal reviewed several itineraries prepared for the LaPierres and examined FAA records for a small charter operator often used by the NRA. There were at least seven flights since mid-2016 that briefly stopped at airports in central Nebraska, on journeys that matched those itineraries or the timing of NRA events attended by the LaPierres.
In June 2017, when Mr. LaPierre spoke at a conservative conference aimed at young women in Dallas, one of that operator’s jets flew round trip from Washington to Dallas, stopping in Nebraska on both legs, the records show.
Several months later, Mr. and Mrs. LaPierre attended an NRA Women’s Leadership summit in Dallas. After the September 2017 event, one of the charter firm’s jets flew from Dallas to central Nebraska and on to Washington, the records show.
Brinkley Dickerson, an Atlanta attorney who advises companies on compliance issues involving use of private aircraft, said such trips arguably had a business purpose given that Mrs. LaPierre’s niece is an NRA employee. But if he were a donor or member of the nonprofit organization, he added, “I’d certainly be really pissed off.”
Mr. LaPierre frequently travels by private jet on NRA business and often stays in luxury hotels, the records reviewed by the Journal show. For the April 2017 Dallas trip, the LaPierres were booked for three nights into a Premier Villa at the Four Seasons at $645 per night for the first two nights, an itinerary shows. (The third night was free.)
During a May 2017 trip to Los Angeles for an NRA event, Ms. Sterner and her daughter stayed in their own suite at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, where the LaPierres also stayed, according to a person familiar with the matter. It couldn’t be determined who paid the hotel bill. FAA records show a jet from a different operator flew from Washington to North Platte, Neb., to Los Angeles just ahead of that event.
Last year, the LaPierres twice toured a $6 million Dallas mansion that the NRA contemplated buying for its chief, after he became concerned about his safety following a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. The mansion deal never happened.
One of the dates they visited the mansion was April 10, 2018. The LaPierres were in Dallas for business reasons, according to a person familiar with the matter. The following day, a jet from the same small charter operator left Dallas, stopped in Grand Island, Neb., then continued to Washington. NRA CEO Wastes Members,NRA CEO Wastes Members