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‘Lifeblood of NRA on the Line’ After Disastrous Weekend

President Trump Delivers Remarks at the NRA Annual Meeting. President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Friday, April 26, 2019, at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis, Ind. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
President Trump Delivers Remarks at the NRA Annual Meeting. President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Friday, April 26, 2019, at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis, Ind. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

“The lifeblood of this organization is on the line. We are under attack from without; we do not need to be under attack from within” – former NRA President Marion Hammer.

On Monday, President Trump tweeted the National Rifle Association (NRA) was ‘under siege by Cuomo’ in response to a New York Times report that New York Attorney General Letitia James was opening a formal investigation into the group’s financial practices.

“The NRA is under siege by Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others. It must get its act together quickly, stop the internal fighting, & get back to GREATNESS – FAST!” Trump said in the tweet.

Investigation of the NRA’s Financial Misconduct

Allegations of the NRA’s financial misconduct surfaced at an annual convention on Saturday, inciting James to subpoena internal documents and challenge the association’s tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization.

The investigation comes at a time of deep internal upheaval in the association. The group’s board and Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre announced the resignation of President Oliver North on Saturday, whom LaPierre accuses of extortion and financial impropriety. As the Wall Street Journal first reported, LaPierre alleges North threatened to expose damaging information about the NRA, including claims of sexual harassment, excessive travel and wardrobe expenses, and other forms of financial mismanagement.

“Delivered by a member of our Board on behalf of his employer, the exhortation was simple: resign or there will be destructive allegations made against me and the NRA. Alarmed and disgusted, I refused the offer,” LaPierre said.

North’s resignation letter was read to an audience by the NRA’s first Vice President, Richard Childress, on the second day of the conference. In the letter, North said he had set up a committee to investigate LaPierre’s claims of financial mismanagement, writing: “If true, the NRA nonprofit status is threatened. There is a clear crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment.”

Oliver North is most well known for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair, where he helped the Reagan administration illegally sell weapons to Iran and used proceeds to fund the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua. When North was coming under investigation for the Iran-Contra scandal, he ordered so many files to be destroyed that the shredder crashed and White House maintenance had to repair it.

In 1989, North was convicted of obstructing Congress and destroying government documents, but he was pardoned by former President George H. W. Bush in 1991. He has since served as a Fox News commentator, written multiple books, and starred on NRATV’s American Heroes show. North has a $1 million dollar contract with the show’s creator, Ackerman McQueen, a public relations firm responsible for shaping the NRA’s message.

Ackerman is at the center of the NRA’s financial troubles. Weeks ago, the NRA sued Ackerman for refusing to share financial records. NRA members have voiced concern about Ackerman for decades, with some warning that shady financial dealings with the advertising firm could lead to the association’s downfall. The NRA paid Ackerman $40 million in 2017 alone.

Allegations of Financial Misconduct Could Threaten the NRA’s Survival

Members of the NRA feel ongoing accusations of financial misconduct are threatening the group’s survival. “The lifeblood of this organization is on the line. We are under attack from without; we do not need to be under attack from within,” said former NRA president Marion Hammer. For the first time, the NRA was outspent by the gun control lobby in the 2018 midterm elections.

Further complicating matters, a Russian agent involved with the NRA was sentenced to 18 months in jail for conspiracy on Friday, found guilty of attempting to infiltrate conservative groups to advance Russia’s interests in the 2016 presidential election.

Before North’s surprise resignation announcement Saturday, President Trump gave a speech at the NRA conference, drawing applause after announcing the U.S. withdrawal of the UN Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement to regulate international weapons sales. The National Rifle Association is one of the president’s largest donors and a key pillar of his conservative base. Later on Monday, the president advised the NRA to leave New York in a Tweet:

“People are fleeing New York State because of high taxes and yes, even oppression of sorts. They didn’t even put up a fight against SALT – could have won. So much litigation. The NRA should leave and fight from the outside of this very difficult to deal with (unfair) State!”

New York Attorney General Letitia James previously investigated President Trump’s nonprofit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. James said the foundation “broke some of the most basic laws that apply to private foundations,” and her office is seeking $3 million in recompense from the president’s dissolved charity. The foundation agreed to shut down under judicial supervision after New York’s former Attorney General Barbara Underwood determined a “shocking pattern of illegality” in the charity during her investigation.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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