NRA Lawsuit Alleging ‘Failed Coup’ and ‘Conspiracy’ Implicates One of Its ‘Most Visible Faces’

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – APRIL 27: Guest walk under a poster featuring Wayne LaPierre (L), NRA vice president and CEO, Chris Cox (C), executive director of the NRA-ILA, and NRA president Oliver North outside a conference room where the NRA annual meeting of members was being held at the 148th NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits on April 27, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

The National Rifle Association (NRA) already let its ex-president, Oliver North, know on Wednesday that he is not “entitled” to “indemnification and advancement from the NRA for legal fees and expenses incurred.” Why? “[B]y reason of his misconduct.” What is this alleged misconduct? A “failed coup attempt.” On Thursday, the gun rights group suspended “one of its most visible faces,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the group’s lobbying arm, NRA-ILA.

Cox told the New York Times that the allegation that he was in on a “coup” to oust NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was  “offensive and patently false.”

“For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization,” Cox said in a statement. “My efforts have always been focused on serving the members of the National Rifle Association, and I will continue to focus all of my energy on carrying out our core mission of defending the Second Amendment.”

Here was the relevant paragraph from the lawsuit, accusing Cox of being involved:

North and his co-conspirators orchestrated these threats through, among other things, a string of text messages that are filed herewith. The text messages were produced in the Virginia Litigation by Dan Boren, an NRA board member employed by one of Ackerman’s other major clients, the Chickasaw Nation. Boren relayed the contents of Ackerman’s threatened letter to North and helped to choreograph the ultimatum they presented to Mr. LaPierre. Moreover, in email correspondence transmitted over non-NRA servers, Boren admitted his knowledge that Ackerman may have been invoicing the NRA for full salaries of employees who were actually working on the Chickasaw Nation account. The same text messages and email messages demonstrate that another errant NRA fiduciary, Chris Cox—once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre—participated in the Ackerman/North/Boren conspiracy.

An internal investigation has been opened.

In recent months, much internal turmoil at the NRA has spilled out into public eye.

North–who won’t serve a second term as NRA president but remains an NRA board member–and so-called insurgents within the organization “sought to oust LaPierre, the group’s longtime chief executive,” The New York Times previously reported. North reportedly asked LaPierre to resign. The next day, LaPierre wrote a letter to the NRA’s board and accused North of “threatening to leak damaging information about him and other N.R.A. executives unless he stepped down.”

North had expressed concerns that the NRA might lose its nonprofit status due to alleged mismanagement of funds. The NRA said this was part of an extortion plot.

The lawsuit claimed that North conspired with the NRA’s former advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, for “more than six months” to “withhold material facts and documents from the NRA.” North was described, as well, as an Ackerman employee.

NRA lawyers vouched for the accuracy of New York Times‘s prior reporting, claiming that North and Ackerman “took extreme measures to deter the NRA’s demands for transparency”:

When the NRA sued Ackerman for specific performance of a contractual obligation to furnish those documents, North and his employer took extreme measures to deter the NRA’s demands for transparency. As the New York Times reported—and secret text messages obtained by the NRA now show—North conspired with Ackerman, and another errant NRA Board member, to unseat the NRA’s executive leadership and give Ackerman lucrative, de facto control over its largest client. That scheme failed. Unsurprisingly, it is now the subject of litigation discovery. On May 3, 2019, the United States Senate Committee on Finance also sought information from North about the same events. North has incurred legal expenses responding to these requests, but the NRA has no obligation or inclination to pay them.

The NRA said North was in no way entitled to compensation for fees related to the lawsuit at hand.

“Simply put, the NRA exists to fight for the Second Amendment—not pay other people’s bills. Accordingly, the NRA seeks a declaration that North’s demands for indemnification and advancement fail,” the lawsuit said. “Despite his fiduciary duties to the NRA, North has acted in the best interests of himself and Ackerman and at the expense of the interests of the NRA, engaged in conduct harmful to the NRA, and persistently failed to provide to the NRA important details related to his lucrative contract with Ackerman.”

The NRA further accused North of making “false allegations” and engaging in “conduct harmful to the NRA.”

NRA-Oliver North Dispute by Law&Crime on Scribd

[Image via Scott Olson/Getty Images]

Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.

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