The NRA is a 'racket' that has 'degenerated' into a 'war over nothing': Conservative columnist
Wayne LaPierre, Jr. is executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

On Monday, conservative "Never-Trump" commentator Charlie Sykes brutally diagnosed the National Rifle Association's woes, following the chaotic circular firing squad at this weekend's NRA-ILA Leadership Forum.

"In case you missed it over the weekend, the National Rifle Association degenerated even further — from racket into something that more resembles the Borgia court during one its nastier squabbles," wrote Sykes. "After days of trading charges of grifting, attempted extortion, and swampy corruption, the NRA effectively ousted its president Oliver North, suspended one of its top lawyers, and girded its cash-starved loins for a challenge to its tax exempt status from the New York attorney general's office."

The meltdown this weekend, Sykes argued, was the culmination of years of mounting internal problems at the notorious gun group.

"On a cosmic level, the NRA has been hemorrhaging cash for years (running deficits of as much as $40 million a year), may be nearly broke, is losing members, and now faces a formidable legal challenge to its tax exempt status ... And this doesn’t even include its odd entanglements with the Russians," wrote Sykes. "The full NRA board is supposed to meet on Monday to hash all of this out."

But unlike the infamous 1970s "Revolt at Cincinnati," where the old NRA leadership was ousted by right-wing activists to refocus the group from marksmanship and hobbyism to Second Amendment activism, Sykes argues this is a struggle for power, not politics.

"In one sense it's a war over nothing; there do not appear to be any significant policy differences behind the battle between long time NRA boss Wayne LaPierre and North," said Sykes. "So far, it looks like this feud is mostly about personalities, power, and access to the various grifts. And the grifts are juicy indeed: million dollar salaries, sweet deals for spouses, fat consultant contracts, six-figure wardrobe allowances, and a menagerie of scams all marinated in a culture of deception, secrecy, and greed. Because the Second Amendment."

There is no easy endgame for this, Sykes cautioned. But it will probably end with President Donald Trump's loyalists even further consolidating power over whatever remains of the NRA infrastructure.

"[If] push comes to shove who will they back in the cage match between Wayne LaPierre and Oliver North?" Sykes concluded. "You know the answer: Whichever side Trump picks."