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NRA Suspends Second-in-Command, Implicating Him in Coup Attempt

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There’s a lot going on right now within NRA. Rumors are rampant! This article has the a good collection of facts. READ MORE

Chris Cox
Chris Cox

SOURCE: NYTimes.com, by Danny Hakim

The palace intrigue at the National Rifle Association deepened last Thursday as the gun group suspended its second-in-command and top lobbyist, accusing him of complicity in the recent failed coup against its chief executive, Wayne LaPierre.

The accusation came in a lawsuit filed Wednesday night in New York State Supreme Court against Oliver North, the N.R.A.’s former president, who led the attempt to oust Mr. LaPierre shortly before the group’s annual convention in April. The complaint provides new details about the effort against Mr. LaPierre, but it is the involvement of the organization’s No. 2 official, Christopher W. Cox, that will reverberate.

In the suit, the N.R.A. said that text messages and emails demonstrated that “another errant N.R.A. fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated” in what was described as a conspiracy.

The court filing includes text exchanges in which Mr. Cox and a board member appear to be discussing an effort to oust Mr. LaPierre, though the full context is unclear. The N.R.A. is conducting an internal review of the matter, and a spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, said on Thursday that both Mr. Cox and a top aide, Scott Christman, had been placed on administrative leave.

Mr. Cox, in a statement, said: “The allegations against me are offensive and patently false. For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization. My efforts have always been focused on serving the members of the National Rifle Association, and I will continue to focus all of my energy on carrying out our core mission of defending the Second Amendment.”

The suit — the latest in a series of legal actions stemming from the gun group’s internal turmoil — is likely to send new shock waves through the N.R.A. While Mr. North served as president for just one year, Mr. Cox has worked for the N.R.A. since 1995 and led its lobbying arm since 2002. He has been a leading presence at the organization’s gatherings, reliably serving up red meat for the N.R.A.’s base.

Among other things, he has been a fervent defender of the AR-15, the semiautomatic rifle used in many mass shootings, telling attendees at the group’s convention last year that “we have an AR culture that’s on display all over the exhibit halls this weekend.”

Together, Mr. Cox, 49, and Mr. LaPierre, 69, have been the public faces of the N.R.A., the twin architects of its strategy. But they have had an uneasy relationship, and their staffs are somewhat siloed from each other. Mr. Cox runs the N.R.A.’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, which has a separate media relations team from the N.R.A.’s, and his choice of consultants has also sometimes diverged from Mr. LaPierre’s.

As Mr. North’s coup attempt played out at the convention this spring, some people inside the N.R.A. said Mr. Cox largely kept quiet and appeared to be hedging his bets.

Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A.’s lobbying arm, said Mr. Cox and Mr. LaPierre had “worked closely together for a quarter of a century, and any notion that Chris participated in a coup is absurd. Chris Cox is known as a calming force who always acts in the best interests of our members by effectively defending the Second Amendment, so it’s not surprising that board members would reach out to him for advice during tumultuous times.”

But Carolyn D. Meadows, who succeeded Mr. North as N.R.A. president, said in a statement: “I fully support the actions undertaken today. The N.R.A. is moving forward on all fronts, especially with regard to serving our members and focusing on the crucial upcoming elections.”

The genesis of the dispute between the N.R.A. and Mr. North is a related legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most prominent contractor, the Oklahoma-based advertising firm Ackerman McQueen, which employed Mr. North. The N.R.A. has sued Ackerman, claiming it withheld documents and records from the gun group, and some officials have suggested the company may also have been overbilling. Ackerman, which has said it did nothing improper, filed a countersuit claiming that it was smeared by the N.R.A.

In yet another lawsuit, the N.R.A. has accused Ackerman of breaching confidentiality clauses in its contract and smearing Mr. LaPierre.

The new lawsuit seeks to block Mr. North’s attempt to have the N.R.A. pay his legal fees, which he has sought as he fields requests to cooperate with other litigation as well as a Senate inquiry.

“The N.R.A. believes that Col. North seeks payments from the Association to which he is not entitled,” the N.R.A.’s outside counsel, William A. Brewer III, said in a statement. (Mr. North is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who first came to prominence during the Iran-Contra hearings.) “The N.R.A. alleges that Col. North breached his fiduciary obligations — in a coordinated attack against the N.R.A. and Wayne LaPierre that involved others motivated by their own economic self-interest,” Mr. Brewer added.

In addition to implicating Mr. Cox, the new lawsuit claims that another N.R.A. board member, the former Oklahoma congressman Dan Boren, participated in the effort to oust Mr. LaPierre, and it presents a piece of evidence intended to shed light on the overbilling question.

Mr. Boren is close to Ackerman and works for another Ackerman client, the Oklahoma-based Chickasaw Nation. In an exhibit filed in the latest complaint, Mr. Boren expressed concern to a Chickasaw official that Ackerman was billing the N.R.A. for “full salary to these employees that may have been working on our accounts,” adding, “I bet Ackerman is in trouble on this one.”

Another key issue in the N.R.A.’s battle with Ackerman is the role of Mr. North, who was employed by Ackerman while serving as the N.R.A.’s president; the N.R.A. has claimed that the arrangement was improper and that Ackerman wouldn’t show the N.R.A. a copy of Mr. North’s contract for months. Mr. North has said Mr. LaPierre helped negotiate the contract.

Mr. North is said to have sparked the coup by delivering a threatening message to a key aide to Mr. LaPierre shortly before the N.R.A. convention in April, warning that damaging revelations about the N.R.A.’s spending on Mr. LaPierre’s clothing and travel would be released if he did not step aside. He also said Mr. LaPierre would be well rewarded financially if he stepped down. Mr. LaPierre refused to step aside, and the embarrassing material was indeed released, though it is not clear by whom.

The latest suit calls this “a conspiracy by North to extort the N.R.A.”

Any move against Mr. Cox could lead to further litigation. He is one of three senior executives who are contractually entitled to receive their base pay for one to four years if they are dismissed without cause, or in some other instances, according to Massachusetts State records reviewed by The New York Times.

The N.R.A., however, seems to be losing patience with paying those it considers to have betrayed Mr. LaPierre.

“Simply put, the N.R.A. exists to fight for the Second Amendment,” the group said in its latest suit, “not pay other people’s bills.”

 

Oliver North Out As NRA President After Leadership Dispute

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Oliver North: “There is a clear crisis and it needs to be dealt with.” READ MORE

oliver north

SOURCE: AP, Lisa Marie Pane

Oliver North announced last Saturday that he would not serve a second term as National Rifle Association president, making it clear he had been forced out by the gun lobby’s leadership after his own failed attempt to remove the NRA’s longtime CEO in a burgeoning divide over the group’s finances and media operations.

“Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president endorsed for reelection. I’m now informed that will not happen,” North said in a statement that was read by Richard Childress, the NRA’s first vice president, to members at the group’s annual convention.

North, whose one-year term ends Monday, did not show up for the meeting, and his spot on the stage was left empty, his nameplate still in its place. His statement was largely met with silence. Wayne LaPierre, whom North had tried to push out, later received two standing ovations.

It was a stunning conclusion to a battle between two conservative and Second Amendment titans — North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel with a ramrod demeanor who was at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, and LaPierre, who has been battle-tested in the decades since he took up the mantle of gun rights. He has fought back challenges that have arisen over the decades, seemingly emerging unscathed each time. In this latest effort, he pushed back against North, telling members of the NRA’s board of directors that North had threatened to release “damaging” information about him to them and saying it amounted to an “extortion” attempt.

Hundreds of the NRA’s estimated 5 million members packed into the convention center in Indianapolis where the group’s annual meetings were being held. Near the end of the two-hour meeting, some members challenged efforts to adjourn and pushed to question the board about controversies involving its financial management, the relationship with its longtime public relations firm and details of what North sought to raise about alleged misspending, sexual harassment and other mismanagement.

But those cries were drowned out as some board members urged such conversations not to be held at such a large public forum, even if the media were eventually discharged from the room.

“We don’t want to give the other side any more information than they already have,” said Tom King, a board member from New York for more than a decade.

Offered Marion Hammer, a former NRA president and longtime lobbyist from Florida: “The life’s blood of this organization is on the line. We are under fire from without. We do not need to be under attack from within.”

The internal dispute first spilled out in public after the NRA in recent weeks filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma-based public relations firm that has earned tens of millions of dollars in the decades since it began shaping the gun lobby’s fierce talking points. The NRA’s lawsuit accuses Ackerman McQueen of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings.

North has a $1 million contract with Ackerman McQueen, raising alarm bells among some in the NRA about conflicts of interest. He has a show called “American Heroes” on NRATV, the online TV station created and operated by Ackerman McQueen. NRATV and Ackerman McQueen’s billings are at the center of the turmoil, with some members and board members questioning whether they were getting any value for the money devoted to that part of the operation. In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million.

NRATV’s programming is provocative, often taking on topics far afield from gun rights, leading some members to wonder if it was damaging its efforts to further gun rights and bring in new members.

The NRA also has faced some financial and regulator struggles in recent years, and there remain concerns that New York authorities in particular — the state where the NRA created its charter — are looking to strip it of its nonprofit status.

An outside lawyer for the NRA, William A. Brewer, said Saturday that New York’s attorney general has opened an investigation into the organization.

In his statement, North said a committee should be set up to review the NRA’s finances and operations.

“There is a clear crisis and it needs to be dealt with” if the NRA is to survive, he said.

Childress, who read North’s statement, said he only found out the night before that he would be asked to read it. A message left with the Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit group founded by North in the 1990s, seeking to contact North, was not immediately returned.

In his speech later Saturday, LaPierre stuck to standard NRA talking points, going after the mainstream media and lawmakers who seek to restrict gun rights. He told the crowd that efforts to strip away gun rights will fail.

“We won’t accept it. We will resist it. We won’t give an inch,” he said.

North, 75, was a military aide to the National Security Council during the Reagan administration in the 1980s when he entered the spotlight for his role in arranging the secret sale of weapons to Iran and the diversion of the proceeds to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

He was convicted in 1989 of obstructing Congress during its investigation, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity. Those convictions were overturned in 1991. Embraced by many on the right, he went on to run for office, write several books and serve as a commentator on Fox News.

Watch the video HERE

Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie contributed to this report from Richmond, Va.

Oliver North Named New President Of The NRA

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Lt. Colonel Oliver North, USMC (Ret.) is the new president of the National Rifle Association of America. READ MORE

oliver north

SOURCE: The Washington Post

Former NRA president Pete Brownell announced last Monday that he has decided not to seek election to another term as president so that he can devote his full energy and time to his family business.

North is a popular speaker before the group and brings star power at a time when gun-control advocates seek to seize on momentum against the gun lobby in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history and one of the deadliest school shootings.

North announced he would retire from his career as a Fox News host effective immediately. He said in a statement that the NRA board was giving him a few weeks to get his affairs in order before starting his new gig.

NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre called North’s appointment “the most exciting news for our members since Charlton Heston became President of our Association.” Heston famously said that his gun could only be taken “from my cold, dead hands.” LaPierre called North “a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator, and skilled leader.”

Robert J. Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and an expert on firearms and Second Amendment issues, called North the closest thing the NRA has to a celebrity “and maybe they figure they need a more prominent person at the helm, as opposed to the string of relative unknowns who have served in recent years.”

North, 74, first emerged into the spotlight in the 1980s for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal, involving the sale of weapons to Iran with proceeds being funneled to right-wing rebel groups in Nicaragua. He has since run for office, written several books and is frequently on the speaking circuit.

He says he’s eager to take on this new role soon and is retiring from Fox News, effective immediately. “I am honored to have been selected by the NRA Board to soon serve as this great organization’s President,” North said. “I appreciate the board initiating a process that affords me a few weeks to set my affairs in order, and I am eager to hit the ground running as the new NRA President.”