NRA president resigns amid turmoil with OKC agency
The Oklahoma City-based advertising firm Ackerman McQueen lost its top ally in a legal battle with the NRA following the resignation this weekend of its president, Oliver North.
The city’s largest and oldest advertising and media company started working for the NRA 38 years ago, but that relationship has been strained in recent months and three weeks ago the firm was sued by the NRA over billing practices and alleged breach of contract.
On Friday night, the organization’s most powerful executive, Wayne LaPierre, sent a letter to the NRA board as its national convention was starting in Indianapolis, alleging that Ackerman McQueen was blackmailing him with North asking LaPierre to drop the lawsuit and resign with the promise of a “generous retirement.”
Representatives at Ackerman McQueen declined to comment Saturday on the disputes, but previously told The Oklahoman it would fight the lawsuit and remained dedicated to the NRA.
In his letter, LaPierre warned he was facing an attempt to force him to resign. But on Saturday morning, instead of North joining LaPierre for the start of weekend sessions, the delegates were addressed by First Vice President Richard Childress who announced North had contacted him at 7 p.m. Friday just as the blackmail allegations were becoming public.
“Please know I hoped to be with you today endorsed as NRA president. I am now informed that will not happen,” North said in the letter read by Childress. “In spring of 2018, NRA EVP and CEO Wayne LaPierre urged me to retire from my job at Fox News and become the president and I accepted a salaried position at Ackerman McQueen. So, I agreed to do so to build NRA membership and resources.”
North went on to allege that shortly after starting his term, he was approached by NRA members and donors who were concerned over billings to Texas attorney William Brewer, who is the brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen.
The lawsuit recently filed against Ackerman McQueen is being led by Brewer’s firm. Ackerman McQueen in an earlier statement alleged the litigation was unfounded and also inappropriately involved a family member (Brewer) who had a conflict of interest.
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North, however, alleged in his letter that Brewer is the one not providing enough detail on billings, especially regarding legal struggles with the state of New York over an attempted program to provide weapons insurance for NRA members.
“We were rebuffed repeatedly,” North said. “Then without notice to the board, the NRA filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen and additionally a series of articles in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times alleged mismanagement by senior NRA officers. If true, the NRA’s non-profit status is threatened.”
The NRA has lost millions over the past couple of years after contributing to the successful presidential election of Donald Trump. LaPierre was closely aligned with Ackerman McQueen for most of his career at the NRA, even fending off an effort to fire the firm in the mid-1990s.
The lawsuit by the NRA alleges Ackerman McQueen collected more than $40 million from the NRA in 2017 as it built up NRATV. The billings include millions paid to Ackerman McQueen for its employment of both Oliver North and network star Dana Loesch, whose videos have often steered more to politics than being focused on Second Amendment and gun issues.
In one of her more controversial segments, she showed animation of children’s television characters Thomas the Tank Engine and friends dressed in KKK robes.
The NRA convention, which started with large banners displaying the picture of Oliver North welcoming delegates, continues on Monday. NRATV on Saturday aired arguments among delegates and officers over whether it was appropriate to delve into the blackmail allegations and misconduct hinted at by LaPierre that involved sexual harassment and inappropriate spending.