The NRA has suspended and formally named in a lawsuit NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. The news broke Thursday from the New York Times. It listed NRA claims that Cox allegedly took part in the failed coup to oust Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, a charge Cox flatly rejects.
The NRA’s internal struggles and external pressure made headlines in the news with allegations of corruption, coup attempts and financial impropriety. During April’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, controversy ensued as board members and LaPierre reportedly battled for control with NRA’s then-president, Oliver North. Reports implicated North in the coup attempt and NRA’s board of directors fired him. Now Cox’s suspension, and accompanying lawsuit filed in New York, will likely send more shockwaves throughout the organizations’s membership base and the firearms industry.
“In the suit, the N.R.A. said that text messages and emails demonstrated that ‘another errant N.R.A. fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated’ in what was described as a conspiracy,” reported nytimes.com.
Chris Cox Responds
“The allegations against me are offensive and patently false,” Cox said in a statement, as reported by nytimes.com. “For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization. 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.”
The Cox suspension serves as the latest blow in what has proven to be a difficult year for the NRA. With Trump’s successful election came less dire need for support, which translated to lighter fundraising and membership growth. NRA’s Carry Guard insurance program, expected to create a huge windfall for the organization, became fraught with problems and lawsuits; it cost the organization both money and clout.
But arguably nothing has proven more damaging than the concerted effort of new and established media outlets to come guns blazing after the NRA. Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown For Gun Safety seeded The Trace, a non-profit media group devoted exclusively to promoting gun control.
Major Media Reports on NRA
Then on April 17, The New Yorker published a story by Mike Spies, a staff writer for The Trace. The article, a detailed, scathing report of alleged NRA financial impropriety, cited recent tax filings. Those filings also revealed NRA annually paid its PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, up to $40 million. The story alleged massive payments to top executives and vendors. Worse still, it came at a time when the organization is reportedly deeply in debt.
The story further reported that on April 12, NRA ultimately filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen. “The suit alleges that Ackerman has denied the N.R.A. access to basic business records, including the terms of Oliver North’s contract, and blames the firm for throwing it into an existential crisis. Ackerman’s general lack of transparency, the complaint says, ‘threatens to imminently and irreparably harm’ the N.R.A.’s status as a nonprofit organization,” the story reported.
Then at April’s NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, a group of NRA members called for a vote of no confidence against LaPierre. The following day North announced he was out as NRA President. Meanwhile, LaPierre reportedly claimed North blackmailed LaPierre in an attempt to force resignation.
“North’s departure and the circumstances surrounding it cast a public light on the apparent discord within the influential gun rights group,” reported washingtonpost.com.
But on May 22, with LaPierre successfully still in position, the NRA published a letter to the membership. The letter included signatures by several past presidents, including Allan Cors, Marion Hammer and others. The message pledged support to LaPierre while also attempting to reassure members that committees were in place. It further claimed finances were in order, and enemies of the NRA would continue to launch baseless attacks. It read, in part:
Our adversaries will not divide us and any further discussion about the so-called “demise of the NRA” is only meant to distract us from our mission. This is how it goes when you stand on the bedrock of constitutional freedom – and represent the last line of defense against a campaign to take down the Second Amendment.
While board members may argue, and perhaps even disagree as to tactics, the support Wayne and the current leadership enjoys reflects our assessment of his past and future value to the association as well as our realization that our opponents know they have to take him down if they want to weaken the NRA.
So for now, LaPierre and the current Board of Directors remain largely unchanged. Meanwhile, North, Ackerman McQueen, and now likely Chris Cox, once thought the eventual successor to LaPierre, are all out. With litigation looming, this story is far from finished. Stay tuned.