National Rifle Association leader Oliver North announced Saturday that he will not seek a second term as president of the gun rights group, as is customary.
His action is a de facto resignation from the organization after more than two decades serving on the board.
North’s decision to step aside from the organization comes amid infighting within the group and follows a number of articles from The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times detailing allegations of financial mismanagement by senior NRA officials.
“The current situation,” North wrote in a letter to the NRA’s membership, means that the organization’s “non-profit status is threatened.”
The announcement shocked the hundreds of NRA members and donors gathered Saturday at the NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis — the news was met with absolute silence.
North — who is perhaps best known for his role in the Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair — was expected to join the meeting himself, but his chair onstage was empty.
“Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president, endorsed for reelection,” North wrote in a letter, read aloud to the NRA membership by NRA First Vice President Richard Childress. “I am now informed that that will not happen.”
North said that there was a “clear crisis” within the organization that “needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting the Second Amendment.”
North said he had been approached by NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre in the spring of 2018, asking him to retire from his post at Fox News to become president of the gun rights group.
North said he accepted a salaried position with Ackerman McQueen, one of the NRA’s most prominent outside contractors, as part of the agreement. NRA presidents typically do not receive a salary from the organization.
He said that after starting as president in September 2018, he was “confronted by NRA board members and donors” about how much the association was paying for an outside law firm. His attempts to address the problem, he said, were “rebuffed repeatedly.” He also stated that before his departure, he had started a “crisis committee” to deal with the allegations.
The NRA recently filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, which for decades has served as an outside group shaping the NRA’s messaging. The lawsuit alleges the firm refused to comply with requests to justify its billings. In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, the firm said the suit was “frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company.”
The NRA has been plunged into internal turmoil at a vulnerable time. It was outspent by gun control groups in the 2018 midterm elections. Public financial disclosures suggest that fundraising is lagging and that the organization is running at a deficit. Congressional investigators have been keen to probe the organization’s donors.