NRA president tries to oust CEO LaPierre,
Turmoil wracking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the U.S. gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits LaPierre, the organization’s longtime CEO, against its recently installed president, Oliver North, the central figure in the Reagan-era IranContra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the NRA and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the NRA is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the NRA faces an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.
North asked LaPierre to resign Wednesday, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. He said he had also created a committee to review allegations of financial improprieties that threaten the NRA’s status as a nonprofit organization.
LaPierre, in a stinging letter sent Thursday night to the NRA’s board, accused North of threatening to leak damaging information about him and other NRA executives unless he stepped down.
“Yesterday evening, I was forced to confront one of those defining choices – styled, in the parlance of extortionists – as an offer I couldn’t refuse,” LaPierre wrote. “I refused it.”
Even as the NRA’s leadership tussled behind the scenes, President Donald Trump addressed the convention Friday and proclaimed himself a champion of gun rights. In a speech that was part political rally and part pep talk, he said his administration would not ratify an arms treaty designed to regulate the international sale of conventional weapons.
The NRA power struggle is an abrupt escalation of a legal battle between the organization and Ackerman McQueen. The Times reported earlier this year that prominent members of the NRA board had grown dismayed at the performance of Ackerman because of its NRATV online media service, which has drifted into right-wing politics far beyond gun rights. Ackerman employs North, who hosts an NRATV series called “American Heroes.”
It is not clear whether North has the board support to oust LaPierre, who has led the NRA for decades. Previously, the presidency has been a ceremonial position, although North, in documents reviewed by The Times, has asked for it to be a paid post. A key factor will be Chris Cox, who runs the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action and is effectively the group’s secondranking official.
The dispute represents the NRA’s deepest internal crisis since a struggle for control of the board in the late 1990s, when LaPierre and Ackerman were on the same side.