This year’s gun lobby board election brought a few surprises, as the National Rifle Association has been trying to keep the results (and the low voter turnout) quiet.
George K. Kollitides II is the founder and CEO of Freedom Group, America’s largest and most profitable firearms consortium. One of the company's products is the Bushmaster AR-15 semi-automatic rifle that was used last December in the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Last year Freedom Group led the gun industry with record sales of almost $1 billion, or $931.9 million. Kollitides also quietly served last year on the NRA’s shadowy Nominating Committee for the NRA’s 2012 board elections, as reported in January in Mother Jones. His place on the Nominating Committee likely helped get his name on the NRA’s official ballot this year.
Yet he still lost his bid for the NRA board, according to election results just published in the August edition of the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine, available only to NRA dues-paying members, a copy of which was obtained by MSNBC. Kollitides remains a Trustee of the NRA Foundation, according to its latest annual report. The foundation’s activities include organizing gun safety and target shooting competitions for children.
Calls to Kollitides’ office at Freedom Group’s headquarters in Madison, North Carolina, requesting comment were not returned.
Other gun industry executives sit on the NRA’s board. Pete Brownell is the third-generation family CEO of Brownells, Inc., America’s largest supplier of firearms parts, tools and accessories. He easily won his reelection. His father and chairman of the board for the family business, Frank R. Brownell III, is also President of the NRA Foundation.
A representative of Brownells in Montezuma, Iowa, told MSNBC.com that neither executive was available for comment.
Two more gun industry executives sit on the NRA board. One is Ronnie G. Barrett, the CEO of the Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, who designed the first .50 caliber rifle for civilian use. (Last week Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have banned .50 caliber rifles in New Jersey.)
Another is Stephen D. Hornady, an NRA board director who, like Kollitides, is an NRA Foundation Trustee. Hornady is the second-generation family CEO of the Nebrasksa-based ammunition-making firm, Hornady Manufacturing.
Other gun industry figures like Larry and Brenda Potterfield of MidwayUSA, a Missouri-based retailer and wholesaler of firearms products, have contributed generously to the NRA through programs like “Round-Up,” which allows firearms consumers to round-up their purchase to the next dollar to make a donation in the name of defending the Second Amendment. To date MidwayUSA’s Round-Up program alone has contributed $8.9 million to an NRA endowment.
This year, as in previous years, the top two vote-winners in NRA elections have been Oliver North and Ted Nugent. North is the Fox News host who became famous as the protagonist of the 1980s-era Iran-Contra affair. Nugent is the rocker last seen on national television in January scowling down from the Capital gallery at President Barack Obama during the State of the Union Address.
Another popular NRA board director is Marion P. Hammer. A grandmother, under five feet tall, Hammer has long been the most influential gun rights activist in her home state of Florida, where she was also, by all accounts, instrumental in helping to pass Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law.
Two other long-standing NRA board members were re-elected this year, despite an organized campaign among NRA Second Amendment activists against one, and a notable degree of negative comments online against the other.
H. Joaquin Jackson is a former, storied Texas Ranger-turned-actor who has played lawmen in films like Extreme Prejudice starring Nick Nolte and The Good Ole Boys directed by Tommy Lee Jones. But a video-recorded interview that Jackson gave back in 2005, saying that military-style semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 rifle have no place in hunting, led NRA activists this year to mount a Facebook campaign against him.
Former Senator Larry Craig is the longest-standing NRA board director, having been first elected in 1983. In 2007 Craig pled guilty to the charge of disorderly conduct for his behavior in a men’s room in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, leading some NRA activists to turn against him.
Only NRA Life Members are eligible to vote, and this year, as in past years, no more than 7.2% of them, or 123,646 voters out of a total of 1,718,786 Life Members, cast a ballot, according to the independent, pro-NRA, Pennsylvania-based gun rights blog, pagunblog.com.
Life members were asked to vote for up to 25 out of 29 candidates. “No write-in candidates received 250 or more votes to quality,” reads an NRA note on the election results in American Rifleman.
The NRA has even failed to publish a list of its latest board of directors online. Earlier this year the group quietly took down a webpage roster of its board members, rerouting the page, www.nra.org/board, to the gun lobby’s home page.
NRA officials at the group’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia declined to comment.
Other notable NRA directors include the actor Tom Selleck, the former NBA basketball star Karl Malone, who is one of several African-American directors on the NRA’s 76-member board, and Grover G. Norquist, the Republican anti-tax crusader.