Oliver North Out As NRA President Amid Ongoing Scandal
After just a year in office, Oliver North is out as President of the National Rifle Association as the group faces an ongoing series of scandals centered around Wayne LaPierre and others.
In the wake of a controversy at the ongoing annual convention of the National Rifle Association involving allegations of financial improprieties by Chairman Wayne LaPierre and his associates, Oliver North, who has been President of the NRA for roughly the past year has been ousted as President of the organization even as the allegations that led to conflict between him and LaPierre continue to hang in the air:
INDIANAPOLIS — Oliver L. North announced on Saturday that he would not serve a second term as the National Rifle Association’s president, deciding to step down as the organization grappled with a bitter dispute over its future and its worst leadership crisis in decades.
He made the announcement as the N.R.A. faced a challenge from the New York attorney general, Letitia James, who had opened an investigation into the gun group’s tax-exempt status.
On Friday, Ms. James’s office sent letters instructing the N.R.A. and affiliated entities, including its charitable foundation, to preserve relevant financial records. Some of the N.R.A.’s related businesses also received subpoenas, according to people with knowledge of the inquiry. A lawyer for the N.R.A. confirmed the investigation.
The move by Ms. James came amid a stunning internal power strugglethat took a major turn on Saturday when Mr. North, in a letter that was read on his behalf at the N.R.A.’s convention, said he would not be renominated. He and insurgents in the N.R.A. this past week had been trying to oust Wayne LaPierre, the group’s longtime chief executive.
“It was a great privilege to serve as your president this past year,” Mr. North said in the letter. He added that the N.R.A. had “a clear crisis” that it needed to deal with “immediately and responsibly,” and that he had recently created a committee to investigate financial improprieties.
His move appeared to end the struggle against Mr. LaPierre, though it was likely that their dispute would be fully resolved at a board meeting on Monday. Supporters of Mr. North spoke up during a contentious gathering after his statement, but Mr. LaPierre appeared to hold substantial support in the room.
Their standoff began on Wednesday, when Mr. North urged Mr. LaPierre to resign. On Thursday, Mr. LaPierre sent a letter to the board in which he accused Mr. North of threatening to release damaging information about him and other executives if he refused to step down.
The shadow cast by Ms. James’s looming action had in some ways spurred the confrontation unfolding at the N.R.A.’s annual convention.
Even before her election last year, Ms. James had promised to investigate the organization’s tax status, and had told Ebony magazine that the N.R.A. held itself “out as a charitable organization” but was actually “a terrorist organization.”
She has special jurisdiction over the group because it was chartered in New York. Her office has broad authority to investigate nonprofits and can seek a number of potential remedies against them in court; a previous inquiry by Ms. James’s predecessors led to the shuttering of President Trump’s charitable foundation, a far smaller enterprise.
“The N.R.A. will fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances,” William A. Brewer III, the N.R.A.’s outside counsel, said in a statement on Saturday. “The N.R.A. is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance.”
The controversy between LaPierre and North apparently involved the organization’s ties to an advertising firm that has been its primary public relations contact for years and Mr. LaPierre’s contacts with that firm:
N.R.A. officials, including Mr. LaPierre, have said that its most prominent contractor, the Oklahoma-based ad firm Ackerman McQueen, did not comply with its requests to turn over financial records, a contention that Ackerman has contested.
The dispute led the N.R.A. to sue Ackerman earlier this month, and the lawsuit is at the heart of the infighting. Mr. North is an employee of Ackerman and is paid “millions of dollars annually” by the company, Mr. LaPierre told the board on Thursday. Mr. North had sided with Ackerman in the legal battle, alarming some board members.
The legal fight has crippled a longstanding relationship between the N.R.A. and Ackerman, two organizations that are tightly intertwined. Ackerman came up with memorable lines such as Charlton Heston’s proclamation that his gun would have to be pried “from my cold, dead hands.” Ackerman also developed NRATV, a controversial online streaming network that had aroused concerns among some board members for straying too far from gun rights. The network’s personalities warned of race wars and portrayed the talking trains in the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” in Ku Klux Klan hoods.
There are a number of potential issues that could arise in Ms. James’s inquiry. Earlier this year, The Times reported that the N.R.A.’s affiliated charity, the N.R.A. Foundation, had transferred more than $100 million since 2012 to the N.R.A., and that it also lent the N.R.A. $5 million in 2017. Donations to the N.R.A. Foundation are tax-deductible, while those to the N.R.A. are not, and the transfers concerned some tax experts.
The Times also reported that the N.R.A. had paid $18 million since 2010 to a company that produces “Under Wild Skies,” a hunting show on NRATV. Tyler Schropp, the N.R.A.’s advancement director, had a stake in the production company until at least 2017; nonprofit rules require a cautious approach for transactions that benefit key executives.
The Wall Street Journal has reported on multiple transactions benefiting firms with ties to N.R.A. officials, while The New Yorker further scrutinized internal conflicts within the organization.
The New York Times Danny Haskim provides further detail about the conflict between LaPierre and North and the controversies that led to today’s ouster of North as President, but the best way of putting all this is that problems seem to be multiplying for the group. In addition to this conflict and the investigation by the New York Attorney General, the NRA also faces the possibility of an investigation by authorities in Virginia, where its headquarters are located, as well as potential criminal and civil investigations by Federal authorities to the extent that there are any allegations of violations of Federal law in the ongoing and evolving story. In addition to all of that, the NRA was also the focus of an investigation related to the efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 election that recently led Marina Butina, a self-identified Russian agent, to plead guilty to charges related to those efforts for which she was recently sentenced to 18 months in a Federal prison. Obviously, all of this has had a serious impact on the organization over the past year and now appears to be breaking out into the open in a way that could do real harm to the NRA as an effective organization.
In any case, it appears that with North’s resignation LaPierre and his associates have won this early round but that hardly matters given the fact that the investigations themselves are continuing and, most likely going to expand. This is a situation where North appears to have been on the side of those who recognized that there was something very rotten going on at the NRA and sought to do something about it. For now. LaPierre appears to have won this battle but the war continues and he still has plenty to worry about.