Oliver North, the retired Marine who was pushed out as president of the National Rifle Association in a dispute within the gun-rights group, said in court documents filed Thursday that he was thwarted when he tried to raise alarm bells about alleged misspending and denied that he tried to oust the organization's longtime top executive.
The documents detail concerns North said he raised over several months and the efforts he said he took to try to have NRA spending audited and reviewed by an outside, independent entity. He said the red flags began to emerge this past spring when he heard that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre had received tens of thousands of dollars in clothing, private jet travel and other perks from the group's longtime marketing firm, Ackerman McQueen; he also has questioned money being paid to the law firm that has represented NRA in its fight against that firm.
North said in the filings that each time he raised concerns about potential financial misconduct, his efforts were "thwarted" by LaPierre and the NRA's lead counsel, William A. Brewer III.
"LaPierre — demonstrating his total dictatorial control over the NRA ... stopped all of North's inquiries and prevented others at the NRA from looking into the concerns that North raised," he said in the court documents. "This included a retaliatory campaign against North, waged by LaPierre and Brewer, in an effort to stop North from responsibly addressing the allegations against LaPierre and the multimillion-dollar monthly payments to Brewer."
The documents were submitted as part of a lawsuit the NRA filed against North last month in New York state Supreme Court objecting to his request to be reimbursed for legal fees. North has received subpoenas related to the NRA lawsuits against Ackerman McQueen as well as a U.S. Senate investigation into NRA operations.
"The NRA views this as a misguided attempt to deflect from reality; Col. North played a central role in an extortion scheme that caused the issues for which he now seeks indemnification," Brewer said in a statement. "The NRA will not look the other way when it appears that crimes against the (NRA) have been committed by people motivated by their own self-interests."
The NRA has been embroiled in legal battles and internal disputes on several fronts over the past year. Besides North's departure as president, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, recently resigned after he had been placed on leave for what LaPierre claimed was his role in seeking to oust him. Just weeks before the NRA's annual meeting this past May, the NRA filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma-based public relations firm that has earned tens of millions of dollars shaping the gun lobby's talking points.
The NRA has accused Ackerman McQueen of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings. That has taken on greater importance as the attorney general in New York, where the NRA is chartered, has launched an investigation into the NRA's operations, a probe that threatens its status as a non-profit.
Part of the turmoil revolves around Ackerman McQueen's billings, with some NRA members and board directors questioning whether they were getting any value for the money. In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million. North has a contract with Ackerman McQueen for a show called "American Heroes" to air on NRATV, the NRA's online TV station that was created and operated by Ackerman McQueen.
In recent weeks, the NRA shuttered NRATV, deciding to air only previously recorded episodes while it examines whether to keep it in operation. North said in the court filings that the NRA's lawsuit and its unwillingness to pay Ackerman McQueen means he's not receiving promised payments for the show, which he left Fox News to join.
The NRA lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen claims North's contract and work for NRATV posed a conflict of interest. But the documents filed by North claim LaPierre not only knew about the deal but encouraged it.
North also claims that a crisis management committee created to look into NRA operations was shut down by LaPierre and Brewer. He also expressed outrage at what the NRA has been spending on legal fees, claiming it has shelled out nearly $20 million from March 2018 until this past February.
In a statement issued through the Brewer law firm, North's successor, Carolyn Meadows, denied that North was blocked from serving a second term as president. Rather, she said, he stepped away after he tried to "extort" LaPierre and she was a witness to the "ultimatum" he delivered.
She also called the crisis management committee a contrived controversy that came only as North's contract with Ackerman McQueen was being scrutinized.
"The two had millions of dollars at stake when they embarked upon this campaign," Meadows said.