INDIANAPOLIS — A power struggle within the National Rifle Association is coming to an explosive head after NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said he faced pressure to resign his post within the organization this week from retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, the group’s president.
The bombshell charge was detailed in a letter from Mr. LaPierre, dated April 25 and addressed to members of the NRA Board, and comes as the association is gathered here for its annual meetings.
The letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
In his own letter to the board dated April 25, Mr. North said Mr. LaPierre was reacting to an earlier memo Mr. North had sent out announcing he was forming a special “crisis management committee” tasked with looking into alleged financial improprieties on the part of the NRA.
But Mr. LaPierre had said that Mr. North called one of his senior staff members on Wednesday and conveyed a message that unless Mr. LaPierre resigned from his position with the NRA, Ackerman McQueen, the group’s longtime advertising firm, would transmit an “allegedly damaging” letter to the entire NRA board.
The letter “would contain a devastating account of our financial status, sexual harassment charges against a staff member, accusations of wardrobe expenses and excessive staff travel expenses,” Mr. LaPierre said.
He said he’s not backing down, however.
“I believe our Board and devoted members will see this for what it is: a threat meant to intimidate and divide us,” Mr. LaPierre said in the letter. “I choose to stand and fight, and hope to bring 5 million members with me.”
Mr. North said in his own letter to the board late Thursday that Mr. LaPierre was reacting to an earlier memo in which Mr. North announced he was setting up a special committee to see whether there was “substance” to recent news reports on the NRA’s finances.
“I did this because I am deeply concerned that these allegations of financial improprieties could threaten our nonprofit status,” Mr. North said in the letter, obtained by The Washington Times.
“We are facing a serious crisis,” Mr. North said. “To date, my repeated efforts to inquire about the proprieties of management’s financial decisions have consistently been rebuffed.”
The NRA recently sued Ackerman McQueen, alleging that it was intentionally withholding financial information the group said it needed to meet its legal obligations.
Part of the issue, according to the lawsuit, is that Ackerman was dragging its feet on providing documentation regarding a contract involving Mr. North.
“Put simply, the NRA is at the end of its rope,” the lawsuit said.
Mr. LaPierre said in the April 25 letter that Mr. North’s agreement with the agency pays him “millions” of dollars annually to host an NRATV documentary series, “American Heroes.”
There were supposed to be 12 feature-length episodes within the series’ first year but the firm has only delivered three, he said.
“The NRA wrote a recent letter demanding to know what, exactly it is paying for — and what it is getting — in light of these production shortfalls,” Mr. LaPierre said. “AM did not respond directly, but appears to have responded indirectly by trying to oust me.”
Ackerman McQueen, which had called the NRA lawsuit frivolous and inaccurate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest developments.
The open conflict pits Mr. LaPierre, who has long been the public face of the NRA, against Mr. North, who the organization announced as its new president in May 2018.
Mr. North, a longtime pundit and TV host, has retained a devoted following among conservatives despite his involvement with the Iran-Contra gun-running scandal during the 1980s.
• David Sherfinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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