Column: Making sense of NRA’s leadership mess in Indy

For me, this whole thing began a couple months ago, when I was told that NRA President Oliver North had a personal contract with one of NRA’s vendors, the media company Ackerman McQueen, or AckMac as it’s known.

I was told this personal contract was worth millions, and that it was unethical for North to have a personal contract with a vendor. I was also told, by someone who should know, that North didn’t disclose this contract until after he was president.

That alone is troublesome.

I called North and left a message on his cell. He called back about an hour later. My caller ID said “FOX NEWS.”

North was cagey. He wanted to know who had told me about the contract. He wanted to know my source.

“You can tell me,” he said. “It’s okay.”

North denied the personal contract was worth $5 million as I’d been told. It was closer to $1 million, he said.

Toward the end of the call, North said the whole conversation was off the record, and that I could attribute everything he said to “a senior NRA official.” Well, it doesn’t really work like that. If you want an off-the-record conversation with a reporter, you need to negotiate that up front, before the conversation begins. North has frequently described himself as a “journalist,” so he should have known this.

For the next few weeks I tried to get some traction for the story with NRA board members, none of whom were willing to speak on the record because things were blowing up with AckMac.

NRA is suing the media firm, alleging they’ve been overcharged dramatically. I was told that North was trying to stop the scrutiny — audits and lawsuits — because of his personal, lucrative AckMac contract.

Supposedly, Wayne LaPierre, NRA’s executive vice president, was leading the charge against AckMac, along with members of his staff.

Now, a bit of clarification about the two men’s roles is needed. As NRA President, North is relatively powerless. NRA presidents are limited to two, one-year terms. LaPierre, as EVP, has all of the power within the organization, which he’s led for nearly 30 years.

The maneuvering began, and the two men were destined for a power struggle, since North wanted to save AckMac and LaPierre wanted it investigated and held accountable.

Fast forward to last week in Indy.

One of my favorite websites, The Truth About Guns, reported that LaPierre was confronted by a few board members and donors in a backroom and told to resign — or else.

He refused, and quickly fired off a letter to the board.

The letter is pretty telling.

In it, LaPierre alleges that his office was contacted by North and told that if he didn’t resign as EVP, North would release damning information against LaPierre and his staff.

Another clarification is needed. Even though LaPierre does not have ties to AckMac like North — a $1 million contract — LaPierre led NRA while AckMac flourished. If in fact AckMac overcharged, it all happened on LaPierre’s watch. As EVP, he should be held accountable.

Back to Indy…

There are a bunch of formalities that occur at NRA’s annual meetings. One of them is the reelection of the president.

North should have been renominated for his second term as president. But this wasn’t going to happen.

Someone, likely from LaPierre’s camp, told North that he would not be renominated, much less reelected president.

As a result, North did the only thing he could and resigned by saying he wouldn’t accept a second term. Make no mistake — in reality, North was forced out. LaPierre won this one.

Takeaways

I am not an NRA member because, as a journalist, I cannot write about any group that I belong to.  Also, I’ve never asked for nor received a single dollar of NRA money. They’ve never advertised once on this site.

In my humble opinion, the fact that an NRA president tried to extort the EVP into resigning is sickening.

I did not enjoy my conversation with North, however brief. There was something about him that I neither liked nor trusted. The members should be glad he’s gone.

As to LaPierre, the allegations North claimed to possess need to be investigated. The NRA has already taken steps to see this through.

LaPierre has led NRA for nearly 30 years and has weathered several coup attempts.

Now, after all of this dirty laundry was aired in public for the whole world to see, it’s up to the members to decide if LaPierre’s contributions to the organization are worth all the hype and hyperbole his actions have generated.

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

8 Comments

  1. Manuel E Gutierrez on

    When you run in ethical paths accountability is most important. The right to defend one’s person is established world wide. As I heard from An LAPD police patrol personnel once in the past, protect yourself first and worry about the Law later. – Society does not look at it that way because in our heterogeneous society people are allowed to maintain their customs and are often mis informed as to what to do in any given circumstance. Hanky panky with the books is a civil matter. Life or death are not. The NRA could help in educating people about the dangers of firearms for the novice in their use and maintain a neutral position in wether or not America could or should engage militarily an adversary.

    • Manuel, you “facts” are severely lacking. The NRA’s primary effort is education and safety in equal parts with protection of the civil right of self defense. I have been an NRA firearms instructor and the vast majority of all that instruction is teaching safety at all levels of handling firearms. Not just safety in shooting them, but in maintaining, cleaning, and storage.

      NRA has been teaching firearm safety to novice and inexperienced gun handlers since its original charter. NRA, its instructors, and its everyday members have taught gun safety at all levels of public education for more than a century. I received such education when I was in the second grade…emphasizing not touching any gun we might come upon and immediately contacting an adult about what we found.

      A problem today is that children are not taught this basic gun safety. NRA has a standing offer to teach gun safety at in any school from kindergarten through High School, at no cost to the school system…public or private (Teaching safety and handling classes to church organizations has been on the rise in recent years). But, there has been such a misinformed stigma created against the NRA that parental protest prevents those safety lessons from being taught to their school children. NRA has been the primary teacher and developer of methods for all age levels to eliminate idle curiosity and dangerous handling of firearms by children, since the organization’s beginning. NRA has been and still is the primary instruction organization for police, security, and even military in the US and in other countries. NRA is also the go-to organization in setting up programs and training instructors for teaching, of police and military personnel, who want to create their own training program.

      Your last few word in your post are unclear as to what you meant. The NRA does not promote warfare. They do celebrate our military heroes, but it does not encourage of promote war. Certainly self defense of individuals and groups through proper training and lawful use is a goal.

    • Kevin, the NRA headquarters is located in Fairfax, Virginia, not New York though there are active clubs in every state. Oliver North was elected because he is a well known American Hero, a patriot, and a pro-2nd Amendment civil rights advocate with the ear of many politicians. To impress government and to point out the need to limit their power, as the founders intended, the NRA has offices in many states.

      BTW, NRA’s contribution to politicians is very limited, averaging, iirc, less than $5 million over the last 8 to 10 years…less than one percent of what Planned Parenthood contributes.

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  3. “Another clarification is needed. Even though LaPierre does not have ties to AckMac like North — a $1 million contract — LaPierre led NRA while AckMac flourished.”

    Let’s not forget about Susan LaPierre, Wayne’s wife, who was an executive for Mercury Group, a completely owned subsidiary of Ackerman. She also still maintains an Ackerman email address. I think there is plenty of personal ties to AckMac.

  4. According to North, his working for AckMac was LaPierre’s idea. Let’s also remember that North gave up a lucrative contract with Fox News to become NRA President. Additionally, he seems to have discovered the problems with his employer and the NRA.

    As Mr. Williams stated in the article, this mess happened on LaPierre’s watch. IMHO, he should resign. Instead, it appears that he will fight. I sincerely hope that the NRA can survive his decision and continued leadership.

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