A contentious public infight within the National Rifle Association came to a head on Saturday with the organization’s president, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, announcing that he will not return for a second term.
North had intended to make an appearance at the organization’s national convention in Indianapolis over the weekend, but instead of attending, Richard Childress, who serves as one of the NRA’s current vice presidents, read a letter on his behalf.
“Please note, I hoped to be with you today as interim president endorsed for reelection. I’m now informed that will now not happen,” Childress read to a convention hall full of NRA members. “I’ve been on the NRA board for more than two decades, it was a great privilege to serve as your president this past year.”
North’s departure comes amid a heated battle with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer and the longtime spiritual leader of the NRA. North reportedly asked LaPierre to resign from his post earlier this week as the organization faces challenges surrounding fundraising and its nonprofit status, the New York Times reported.
The organization’s 2016 election spending, including $36 million to help Trump, has prompted regulators in its charter base of New York state to threaten to investigate its nonprofit status.
North told organization brass that he created a committee to investigate possible financial improprieties committed by the organization, the Times reported. North also sent a letter to the board with allegations that LePierre charged a vendor more than $200,000 on wardrobe purchases, according to The Wall Street Journal.
In response, LePierre sent a letter to the NRA board alleging he was being extorted and pressured by North, who threatened to release “damaging” information about him if he did not resign, according to the Journal. LaPierre said he refused and called on board members to “see this for what it is: a threat meant to intimidate and divide us.”
The dispute between the two NRA titans was triggered in part after the organization filed a lawsuit against advertising firm Ackerman McQueen, alleging the agency was not being transparent with how it used NRA money, according to the Journal. The NRA paid Ackerman McQueen $42.6 million in 2017, making it the group’s largest vendor, the Journal reported.
The lawsuit is also connected to a looming investigation by New York state regulators seeking to re-examine the NRA’s tax exemption status as a non-profit.
North, who accepted a “salaried position” with Ackerman McQueen, said that the lawsuit was filed without notice to the board, according to the letter read by Childress.
LaPierre alleged that North has “contractual and financial loyalties” to Ackerman McQueen and was, therefore, protecting them, according to the Journal.
North, a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, was selected last year to be the NRA’s president and his term will end on Monday.
The 76 member NRA board will face pressing decisions when it meets on Monday.