The Corner

Politics & Policy

The NRA’s Internal Disputes Explode Into the Public Light, Oliver North Departs

NRA executive vp and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., April 26, 2019. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Indianapolis, Ind. – A long-simmering dispute between NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre and now-departing NRA president Oliver North exploded into the open Friday night, as the NRA’s Board of Directors suddenly forced to confront public accusations and counter-accusations of financial mismanagement, attempts at extortion, and unjustifiable expenditures by their primary public relations firm. By Saturday morning, it was clear who won.

This morning, at the NRA’s public meeting of members, member Richard Childress read a letter from North announcing he would not seek another term as the NRA’s president. His term ends Monday.

The NRA is currently suing their public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, over access to documents detailing how the firm spent the NRA’s money. In recent years, NRA board members grew increasingly concerned about whether they were getting their money’s worth from their long time advertising and PR firm; according to financial documents cited in The New Yorker, the NRA paid Ackerman McQueen just under $41 million in 2017.

Further complicating the matter is that North has a contract with Ackerman McQueen to produce a television series “Oliver North’s American Heroes.” LaPierre accuses North of attempting to oust him in order to protect Ackerman McQueen.

North had sent a letter to the NRA board contending that the NRA had paid for, through a vendor, more than $200,000 of wardrobe purchases by LaPierre, according to the Wall Street Journal. LaPierre responded with his own letter, contending North had threatened to disclose embarrassing information about him and the organization, and that others within the NRA had communicated that the embarrassing information wouldn’t be disclosed if the NRA dropped the lawsuit against Ackerman.

North was not at the public NRA member’s meeting this morning; LaPierre was. Childress read a letter from North, citing recent reports in the New York Times and The New Yorker about financial improprieties and declaring, “if true, the NRA’s nonprofit status is threatened.”

“There’s some housekeeping that needs to be taken care of,” Childress said after reading North’s letter. But then the meeting shifted to the traditional recognition of the youngest and oldest lifetime NRA members in attendance and the usual, noncontroversial business.

The NRA board is in Indianapolis for its annual meeting this weekend, and will formally meet in private Monday, although there are rumors that the board may meet behind closed doors before then. As of this writing, few have any clear sense of whether the NRA’s relationship with Ackerman McQueen will continue. Giant posters of LaPierre and North are still hanging all around the Indianapolis Convention Center.

The dispute may seem like inside baseball, but the ramifications could be serious. The NRA is incorporated in New York state, and state attorney general Letitia James has “repeatedly threatened to investigate the tax-exempt status of the organization.” Most states give their attorney generals broad authority to investigate the finances of nonprofit organizations and New York is no exception. James’ predecessor, Barbara Underwood, pursued allegations of financial impropriety at the Trump Foundation and in December, the Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve and distribute its remaining assets to other charities.

Nor does the NRA have a simple option of dissolving its charter in New York and then reopening in another state with a less hostile state attorney general. New York state regulators would have to approve the move, and they are unlikely to simply sign off on an organization under investigation closing up shop and moving to another state.

Shortly before getting elected, James argued, “The NRA holds [itself] out as a charitable organization, but in fact, [it] really [is] a terrorist organization.” Under normal circumstances, an accused organization’s best defense may be that the state official seeking to investigate them has already made comments like this, suggesting a political vendetta. But persuasively arguing that the whole investigation is driven by politics is more difficult when the organization’s own leadership is trading letters accusing each other of inappropriate expenditures.

As noted yesterday, the NRA played a key role in driving turnout of pro-Trump women in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. The Trump team must be hoping that the NRA is operating on all cylinders in 2020 – and not hindered by expensive and embarrassing litigation.

UPDATE: Later in the meeting, Wayne LaPierre discussed the NRA’s lawsuit against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, charging that the governor and top members of his administration abused their authority over banks and financial institutions to discourage the banks from doing business with the NRA. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the NRA’s position, contending “targeting a nonprofit advocacy group and seeking to deny it financial services because it promotes a lawful activity violates the First Amendment.”

LaPierre then segued to discussing New York state attorney general James, mentioning her pre-election claim that the NRA is a “terrorist organization” and accusing her of readying a “taxpayer-funded fishing expedition… a contrived political investigation.”

There may be something worth investigating in the NRA’s finances, but James’ animosity towards the group is so obvious that she’s one of the worst people in the country to lead the investigation.

Most Popular

White House

Trump and the ‘Racist Tweets’

What does “racist” even mean anymore? Racism is the headline on President Trump’s Sunday tweets -- the media-Democrat complex assiduously describes them as “racist tweets” as if that were a fact rather than a trope. I don’t think they were racist; I think they were abjectly stupid. Like many ... Read More
White House

The Trump Steamroller

As we settle into high summer and the period of maximum difficulty in finding anything to fill in hours of television news, especially 24/7 news television, two well-established political trends are emerging in this pre-electoral period: The president’s opponents continue to dig themselves into foxholes that ... Read More

Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More