In an official N.R.A. video from early last year, the organization's CEO Wayne LaPierre conjures an army of bogeymen only a gun can stave off: "Elites threaten our very survival, and to them we say: We don't trust you, we don't fear you, and we don't need you. Take your hands off our future." In the video, LaPierre wears a black suit, black tie, and crisp white shirt: a small fraction of the luxury goods he purchased while running the group.
According to internal documents leaked to the Wall Street Journal, LaPierre spent $274,695.03 on Zegna clothing from 2004 to 2017. He even ventured into the homebase of his enemies-Hollywood!-to buy his suits at the brand's Beverly Hills location. On two particularly notable shopping sprees, he spent over $39,000. (When reached over the phone, an employee there said they "couldn't tell you a thing" about LaPierre.)
In speeches over the years, LaPierre has sketched shooting range targets out of all manner of 'elites': the protest-funding George Soros, the media, college professors who make students read the Communist Manifesto, radical leftists, kneeling NFL players. Now we know that LaPierre shares a taste for finery with the people he's taught NRA members to despise.
That LaPierre's clothes suggest hypocrisy hasn't gone unnoticed at the NRA. Aaron Davis, a former NRA employee, told the New Yorker that not everyone approved of the direction of certain departments. Davis recalled taking a board member to lunch and awkwardly requesting a donation: "He just looks at me, and he goes, 'You know, I like you, but I hate your department.' I said, 'Why?' He says, 'Because N.R.A. is not fancy Italian shoes with thousand-dollar suits. N.R.A. is the backbone of this country, wearing bluejeans and boots."
But in 2019, the work of advancing blue-jeans policies is frequently done by those in thousand-dollar suits. Donald Trump allegedly pairs his cheap red Make America Great Again hats with bespoke suits from Italian brand Brioni. When FBI agents raided the home of his one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort, they found millions of dollars worth of ostrich leather jackets and custom suits. Men like LaPierre, Trump, and Manafort fund their luxury lifestyles by drumming up fear of and anger at the kind of people who wear designer suits.
Notably, LaPierre and Manafort's lavish spending centers around something almost aggressively visible. LaPierre likely could have spent almost $300,000 on countless other habits of the rich-cars, fancy meals, EMF-blocking Faraday saunas-but the NRA CEO spent in ways that would make apparent how well-paid he is. He poured money into the very thing that would make him appear wealthy-maybe even elite-during interviews, speeches, and fear-mongering videos.
Stranger still, LaPierre's obsession with dressing put his careers in jeopardy. LaPierre was caught because he tried to charge his Zegna suits to Ackerman McQueen, the NRA's former ad agency. The NRA is currently suing the firm for not fully justifying its fee. "We need to address your wardrobe you required us to provide, specifically purchases at the Zegna store in Beverly Hills, CA," one letter from Ackerman reads, according to WSJ. Manafort's suits, too, were held up in court as evidence that he committed wire fraud. Michael Avenatti's collection of Patek Philippes watches are being used as evidence that Stormy Daniels's former lawyer lied about his income. For LaPierre's part, his spending on suits puts the NRA in danger of losing its non-profit status. Whether he meant to or not, when LaPierre warned NRA members about those scary coastal elites, he was talking about himself.