But National Rifle Association declared bankruptcy two days later
WASHINGTON D.C.––U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service director Aurelia Skipwith on January 13, 2021, a week from the end of the Donald Trump presidential administration and probably not much longer from her own replacement, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Rifle Association “to assist in the recruitment, education and retaining” of sport hunters.
“Formalizing an anticipated 10-year partnership,” the Fish & Wildlife Service announcement said, the Memorandum of Understanding includes “a commitment to science-based strategies for wildlife conservation that take into account land boundaries, private property rights and multiple-use requirements of federal and state land management agencies.”
In other words, the National Rifle Association is expected to help teach hunters that their Second Amendment rights do not extend to shooting into, or over, anywhere a bullet might fly, or to shooting cows on Bureau of Land Management property, or lumberjacks on U.S. Forest Service land.
Last of many Trump administration handouts to hunters
“The National Rifle Association also pledges to help enhance hunter safety, marksmanship, and shooting safety,” the Fish & Wildlife Service announcement affirmed.
Skipwith, the first person of African-American ancestry to lead the Fish & Wildlife Service, and one of the only black faces to head a federal agency during the Trump administration, is also longtime consort of trophy hunter and resource extraction industry lobbyist Leo Giacometto.
A former lobbyist herself against Endangered Species Act enforcement, Skipwith on August 18, 2020, the day new U.S. President Joe Biden was nominated to run against Trump, announced that hunting seasons would be opened or expanded on 2.3 million acres scattered among 147 National Wildlife Refuges.
The Trump administration had already opened more National Wildlife Refuges to hunting than the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton presidential administrations combined.
(See Law protects birds from poaching but not oil spills, says Trump administration.)
Fewer hunters now than eat meatless burgers
Pressure from the National Rifle Association and other pro-hunting organizations for more governmental support of hunting comes as hunting participation has dropped for more than 40 years, falling since 2011 at the rate of more than half a million hunters per year.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service counted only 11.5 million hunters in 2016, the lowest number since the agency began surveying the hunting population every five years during the Jimmy Carter presidential administration.
Even more alarming to the hunting industry, including state wildlife agencies whose revenue comes partially from the sale of hunting licenses, more than half of the U.S. hunter population is believe to be now in the 45 to 64 age bracket, where hunters typically “age out” of active participation.
Only about a third of the U.S. hunter population are believed to be in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets.
Altogether, only 4.4% of Americans hunt now, far fewer than than 16% who eat meatless burgers.
NRA files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
Whether the National Rifle Administration will be any more able to slow the drop in the number of hunters under the Skipwith memorandum than hunting advocacy organizations were before it was drawn up is an open question.
The National Rifle Association, only two days after the memorandum signing ceremony, filed on January 15, 2021 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
“The group said it plans to leave New York State, where it was founded in 1871, and reincorporate as a Texas nonprofit in a move it is calling ‘Project Freedom,’” reported CNN Business writer Clare Duffy.
The National Rifle Association bankruptcy and exodus from New York to Texas come after New York state attorney general Letitia James on August 6, 2020 filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organization as irremediably corrupt.
NRA brass “funneled millions into their own pockets”
James at the same time also individually sued Wayne LaPierre Jr., the National Rifle Association chief executive since 1991; general counsel John Frazer; former chief of staff Josh Powell, who subsequently turned whistle-blower against the NRA; and Wilson Phillips, who had been chief financial officer.
James accused LaPierre, Frazer, Powell, and Phillips of “taking improper actions” that cost the National Rifle association $64 million over three years.
“Over six and a half years,” James charged, “a personal travel consultant for LaPierre was paid $13.5 million, largely on no-bid contracts.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful,” continued James, “that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” operating “as a breeding ground for greed, abuse. and brazen illegality.”
“NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status”
Washington, D.C. attorney general Karl Racine soon filed a similar lawsuit against the National Rifle Association and the NRA charitable foundation.
The National Rifle Association responded by filing a federal lawsuit against James, claiming her prosecution violated the NRA’s First Amendment rights.
Said James of the National Rifle Association bankruptcy filing and plan to move, “The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt.”
“While we review this filing,” James added, “we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight.”
NRA spent $50 million to elect Trump in 2016
Summarized CNN writer Duffy, “In 2019, the NRA operated at a $12.2 million deficit,” according to IRS Form 990. “The [Form 990] filing also stated that the NRA became aware of a “significant diversion” of its assets in 2019 and previous years, and that LaPierre paid back nearly $300,000 plus interest in funds for the expense.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association spent $139 million on campaigns and lobbying between 2000 and 2019.
This included $50 million spent to elect Donald Trump in 2016.
Under the Trump administration, the Internal Revenue Service rolled back accountability requirements for disclosure of sources of campaign funds. Thus how much the National Rifle Association contributed to the Trump re-election campaign is unknown.
Jamaka Petzak says
The guy who observed trophy hunting to be a “horror show”? Hmmm. Interesting. Sharing to socials with gratitude and much hope.
Marcia Sipulski says
Biden won’t be any better in protecting animals!!! A politician is a politician is a politician…
Merritt Clifton says
Even if Joe Biden turns out to have the second worst record on behalf of animals of any U.S. president since the first federal animal protection law was passed in 1873, his administration would be head-and-shoulders above the record of the Trump administration, which was by far and away the worst––and in only four years. The Trump administration dismantled enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act within days of taking office, then went on to dismantle enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Wild & Free Roaming Horse & Burro Protection Act, the Horse Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and U.S. compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Not a single meaningful piece of pro-animal legislation passed during the Trump years.
Both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, however, bring to the U.S. presidency and vice presidency very long positive records on animal issues.
The Humane Society of the U.S. has historically leaned to the right, and HSUS president Kitty Block and Humane Society Legislative Fund president Sara Amundson continued that history, even posing with Donald Trump at the signing of the PACT Act in November 2019, which exempts practically every human use of animals from federal anti-cruelty law enforcement. Nonetheless, recounted Block and Amundson on November 11, 2020, “During his time as a U.S. Senator, Biden supported dozens of animal welfare reforms, including dolphin-safe labeling on cans of tuna and legislation asking Canada to end its bloody seal hunt. He authored legislation to end canned hunting—the practice of trophy hunting wild animals in enclosures with nowhere to run—and voted to stop horse slaughter in the United States by prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars to fund U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection and approval of meat at horse slaughterhouses. As Senator, Biden also worked to prohibit the use in research of dogs and cats obtained by Class B dealers through random sources and to end animal fighting and federal subsidies for fur.
“Harris, too, has a strong record on animal issues. When she was attorney general of California, we [HSUS] teamed up with her on at least a dozen animal protection cases, including beating back an NRA-backed lawsuit that sought to overturn a new California state law banning intrastate trade of ivory and rhino horn in 2016. Harris’ office also successfully defended California’s Prop 2, a law ending the cruel cage confinement of egg laying hens, multiple times, and successfully defended California’s groundbreaking law banning force-fed foie gras sales.
“As U.S. Senator, Harris has continued to help animals as evidenced by her score of 86/100 on the HSLF 2020 Humane Scorecard Preview. In addition to our priority bills, Harris was one of the cosponsors of the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act, that would require the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to suspend all waivers for increased line speeds it has issued to chicken and cattle slaughterhouses during the pandemic, and stop issuing any new waivers.”
ANIMALs 24-7 is, of course, expecting the Biden/Harris administration to promptly undo Trump’s many rollbacks of animal protection law enforcement. Merely accomplishing that much would amount to the most positive record on behalf of animals of any presidential administration since that of Richard Nixon, under whom most of the laws that Trump disabled were passed.
Nolan Meylor says
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