INDIANAPOLIS — Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North will not serve a second term as the National Rifle Association’s president, amid a power struggle with Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre and heightened scrutiny on the NRA’s finances.
Mr. North said in a letter, read at the NRA’s annual meeting of members here on Saturday, that he hoped to be there as the group’s president endorsed for reelection.
“I’m now informed that will not happen,” Mr. North said in the letter, which was read to members by NRA First Vice President Richard Childress.
The NRA announced last May that Mr. North, a longtime TV personality and conservative pundit who gained notoriety during the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s, would take over as its next president.
But he and Mr. LaPierre, the longtime face of the group, have been locked in a battle that spilled into the open this week when Mr. LaPierre accused Mr. North and Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s longtime advertising firm, of effectively extorting him and trying to force him to resign his own post.
“There is a clear crisis. It needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment,” Mr. North said in his letter.
But in the end, it appears that Mr. LaPierre emerged with the upper hand.
The NRA recently sued Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of dragging its feet on producing financial documents the NRA said it needed to meet its legal obligations.
Part of the issue was that the firm was slow to provide information about a separate contract Mr. North had signed with them, the lawsuit said.
Marion Hammer, an NRA board member and past president, said on Saturday she’s known Mr. LaPierre for more than 30 years and that he “fights for, lives and breathes” the Second Amendment and the NRA.
“That’s where his loyalties lie,” Ms. Hammer told The Washington Times. “I question Col. North’s loyalties. As an employee of a vendor of the National Rifle Association, his loyalty appears to be to that vendor and not to the organization.”
Joel Friedman, another board member, said he expects that Mr. LaPierre has enough support among the board to retain his current post.
“I’ve talked to a lot of the board members, and they seem to be supporting him,” Mr. Friedman said.
Mr. North said he had raised concerns about the amount of money the organization was paying to the Brewer law firm, which is representing the NRA in a lawsuit it’s waging against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state of New York.
The group says the state violated its First Amendment rights when it discouraged banks and insurance companies from doing business with the NRA.
Mr. LaPierre, who received multiple standing ovations from the crowd on Saturday, didn’t mention the issues with Mr. North when he addressed members — but he did talk up the importance of the case against New York.
“This case, what we’re dealing with right now, is perhaps the most important First Amendment case in the history of the United States of America,” Mr. LaPierre said.
Mr. LaPierre had said in his letter to the board this week that Mr. North conveyed a message to a top staffer that unless Mr. LaPierre resigned his post, Ackerman McQueen would release allegedly damaging information to the NRA board.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the contents of Mr. LaPierre’s letter.
In his own letter to the board late Thursday, Mr. North said he was concerned about recent reports about financial improprieties within the NRA and that he had set up a special committee to look into the allegations.
Still, Mr. LaPierre faced his own questions on Saturday when members considered a motion to express disappointment and a lack of confidence in Mr. LaPierre and call on him to resign in light of the recent allegations.
Members ultimately voted to refer the matter to the NRA Board of Directors, after a somewhat chaotic debate that included talk of whether they should move into executive session and boot members of the press out of the room.
Ms. Hammer said moving into executive session was simply not possible with a meeting of that size and said she suspected most of the people in the room don’t want to damage the organization “or to play into the hands of Gov. Cuomo or Michael Bloomberg.”
“The life’s blood of this organization is on the line,” she told members. “We are under attack from without — we do not need to be under attack from within.”
Joshua Prince, an attorney from Pennsylvania, said after the meeting abruptly adjourned that members simply want to get answers.
“We believe the members of NRA are entitled to transparency and to understand the involvement of Ackerman McQueen in NRA as well as the payment of salaries by Ackerman McQueen of individuals who are members of the NRA,” Mr. Prince said.
Ackerman McQueen, which had earlier called the NRA’s lawsuit inaccurate and frivolous, did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Friedman said that board members themselves are also trying to come to grips with all of the moving parts.
“What’s absolute today may not be absolute tomorrow,” he said. “The only thing that’s guaranteed in life is we’ll all die one day.”
The full NRA board is slated to meet on Monday.
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