The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

Brewster’s Millions at the NRA

How do you spend $1,100 in an airport with nothing to show for it?
May 13, 2019
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(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

1. Fancy Pants

Let’s talk about the big NRA story from the weekend.

Somebody on the internet whose name almost certainly does not rhyme with Noliver Torth released a long memo detailing some of the NRA’s more extreme expenses. For instance:

  • $39,000 on clothing for Wayne LaPierre in a single visit to a Beverly Hills boutique.
  • $1,096 for “Frankfurt Airport Assistance”
  • $40,000 for a one-way flight from Washington to the Bahamas.
  • $13,800 for “rent” for a summer intern.
  • $18.5 million for legal fees from the law firm of Bill Brewer.

I want to unpack each of these just so you can get a sense of how bonkers they are.

Let’s start with the $39,000 in men’s clothing.

That’s a lot. I wear primarily jeans and and black t-shirts made from merino wool, but I know a little bit about men’s fashion. Incotex is the gold-standard for men’s trousers. You can spend $500 or $600 per pair, if you want to. But that leaves you with close to 80 pairs of pants.

You can spend $400 on a button down shirt. You can spend $2,000 on a pair of shoes. Even if all he did was buy 15 pairs of $2,000 shoes, that’s a lot of cubic volume of stuff.

What I’m trying to impress on you is that the sheer volume of merchandise you get for $39,000 is so great that LaPierre would have needed a fleet of assistants to get out the door.

How does that happen?

Also, what is “airport assistance”? Think about the airports you’ve been in. How could you have spent $1,100 on services? That means, no meals and no physical goods. I can think of the massage places some airports have, but usually those are $100 an hour or so.

If you get a sense that this is turning into a game of Brewster’s Millions, you’re not wrong.

Okay: $40,000 for a one-way flight from DC to the Bahamas. As of right now, the single most expensive ticket I can find for this hop is $2,146 dollars. You’re only flying 958 miles! He was paying $41.75 per mile!

The summer intern’s rent from $13,800? Look, I know housing in DC is expensive. But that’s $4,600 per month. It’s actually kind of hard to spend that much money here. Right now there are only 46 places for rent (according to Zillow) in that range. Some of them are ultra-luxury apartments. Others are newly-renovated, single-family homes in expensive DC neighborhoods with 3 bedrooms and close to 2,000 square feet of space.

I’m not saying that interns have to be packed into basement sublets three to a room but . . .

And last, but not least, we have the legal bills.

Look: Lawyers are expensive! If you’re consulting with a top-level senior attorney in a big city you could have the meter running at $2,000 an hour.

But the NRA was burning through $100,000 in legal fees per day.

So let’s do the math. Assume that the lawyers working for the NRA are all top-notch, senior-partner level heavy-hitters billing out at $2,000 per hour. That’s 50 hours of billable work per day. Which is six superstar lawyers, working 9 to 5, without breaks, for the NRA. Every. Single. Day.

Exactly what sort of work were they doing? It’s not like they were running the government’s anti-trust case against Microsoft.

My point in this exercise is to show that these expenses aren’t just extravagant and wasteful, but are so insane that you can’t even really figure out how they were actually incurred.

In a weird way, the $13,800 on summer housing for the “intern” is actually the easiest expense to understand.

It is difficult to see how the NRA will survive this in anything remotely resembling its current form.

2. Mike Pence, Secret Sith

One of my favorite Star Wars fan theories was that Jar Jar Binks was actually a secret Sith lord.

(If you don’t want to revisit the original Reddit thread, you can watch the video.)

Well, Christian Vanderbrouk has gone through the Mueller report with a fine-tooth comb and thinks that Mike Pence might actually be the man behind all of the Deep State #resistance to Trump.

Sample awesome:

How will the president and his loyalists respond when they put the pieces together?

  • A text message from the FBI’s Peter Strzok which could be interpreted to reference an intelligence relationship with the vice president’s chief of staff;
  • The vice president and top White House aides — both deceived by the national security adviser — secretly meeting with the FBI’s Andrew McCabe, then demanding Flynn’s firing;
  • And when the president doesn’t move quickly enough, a mysterious leak to the Washington Post, which has the intended effect.

And to top it all off, the very day after the New York Times reported that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to “let[ ] Flynn go,” the vice president filed papers to organize a Leadership PAC. Trump adviser and notorious dirty trickster Roger Stone responded by tweeting “no vice president in modern history had their own PAC less than 6 month into the president’s first term…Hmmmm.” . . .

And don’t even get them started on the mysterious use of the word “lodestar” in the infamous New York Times op-ed by a senior “Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

Mike Pence a secret Sith? It’s more convincing than you can possibly imagine.