NRA infighting spills into public view with anonymous leak of documents

The documents raise more questions about the organization's spending practices.

May 13, 2019, 4:06 PM

A trove of what appear to be internal NRA documents were anonymously posted online over the weekend, raising more questions about longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre’s leadership amid mounting allegations of financial mismanagement within the powerful gun lobby.

The leaked documents, the authenticity of which ABC News has not been able to verify, included letters that appear to show former NRA president Lt. Col. Oliver North raised serious concerns with the organization’s audit committee about $24 million in legal fees paid to the firm of outside counsel William Brewer over the last year. North was recently ousted as president amid a dispute with LaPierre.

Those fees -- estimated in one letter to cost the organization nearly $100,000 per day -- “are draining NRA cash at mindboggling speed,” wrote North and NRA Vice President Richard Childress on April 18 as they urged the committee to authorize an independent review.

“Invoices of this size for 12 months of work appear to be excessive and pose an existential threat to the financial stability of the NRA,” the letter reads. “This is a fiscal emergency.”

President of the National Rifle Association (NRA) Oliver North speaks during CPAC 2019, Feb. 28, 2019, in National Harbor, Md.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a pair of statements provided to ABC News by a spokesperson for Brewer, two NRA officials did not dispute the authenticity of the documents but dismissed the allegations contained within them.

“This is stale news – being recycled by those with personal agendas," said Carolyn Meadows, the group's new president. "In any event, the entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre and the work he’s doing in support of the NRA and its members. It is troubling and a bit pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas. This has no bearing on the board’s support of Wayne – and the work the NRA does to protect America’s constitutional freedoms."

“The memo on the Brewer firm’s legal fees is inaccurate – it reflects a misinformed view of the firm, its billings, and its advocacy for the NRA,” said Charles Cotton, chairman of the NRA's audit committee. “The board supports the work the firm is doing, the results achieved, and the value of its services. Importantly, this relationship has been reviewed, vetted and approved.”

Multiple attempts to reach North have been unsuccessful.

These latest revelations have arrived during a period of rising internal tensions at the organization, as media scrutiny of the NRA and its finances has prompted action by law enforcement and lawmakers.

In April, the NRA sued its longtime ad agency Ackerman McQueen, the contractor behind NRATV, raising questions about the ad firm’s relationship with North. Days later, The New Yorker published an investigation by Mike Spies of the nonprofit journalism outlet The Trace that claimed “memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object.”

Later that same month, The New York Times reported that in a letter sent to NRA board members, LaPierre accused North of extorting him, threatening to release damaging information about the NRA unless LaPierre resigned. Ultimately, however, it was North who would step down as president, losing the apparent power struggle.

PHOTO: In this undated photo shows the exterior of the Headquarters of the National Rifle Association inFairfax, Va.
In this undated photo shows the exterior of the Headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Va.
Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images

Since then, new details about questionable spending practices within the organization have continued to emerge. The unverified documents posted online include letters to LaPierre from Ackerman McQueen’s chief financial officer William Winkler seeking more information about $274,965.03 in wardrobe expenses made at Zegna in Beverly Hills and $267,460.53 of other personal expenses – primarily travel to the Bahamas, Palm Beach, New York, Los Angeles, Reno, Budapest and Italy.

The latter total also includes $13,804.84 for an apartment in Fairfax, Virginia that, according to the letter, LaPierre “required we rent” and “billed to the NRA” for a young woman who, according to LinkedIn, was then an intern at the organization. She is still, according to LinkedIn, employed by the NRA.

A spokesperson for Ackerman McQueen did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In response to numerous reports of financial improprieties within the organization, the New York attorney general has launched an investigation, three Democratic Senators are probing LaPierre, North and Ackmerman McQueen for more information, and Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider called on the Internal Revenue Service to “review whether the recent allegations against the NRA warrant reconsideration of the organization’s tax-exempt status.”

"It's incredibly disturbing,” Schneider said in a hearing last week, “to see these allegations and to think that NRA executives are possibly misappropriating their donors contributions and abusing their nonprofit status for personal gain.”

ABC News' Matthew Mosk and Kaitlyn Folmer contributed to this report.

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