The National Rifle Association’s second-in-command has been suspended following a lawsuit alleging he participated in a bid to oust Wayne LaPierre as the gun group’s chief executive.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday night in New York’s Supreme Court against the group’s former president, Oliver North, the NRA alleges that he engaged in an extortion plot and that the group’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, participated in the scheme that included trying to dislodge LaPierre.
The drama started in April, when during the NRA’s annual convention it was publicly revealed that North was orchestrating a behind-the-scenes effort to discredit LaPierre ― long the controversial public face of the group ― by accusing him of wasteful spending.
But the attempt failed, lines of division were drawn, North stepped down from his post and lawsuits have been flying since.
The Virginia-based NRA is suing its longtime advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, over the coup attempt. The company has filed a countersuit, claiming the gun group was looking for frivolous reasons to cancel its ad contract.
In Wednesday’s lawsuit against North, the NRA argued that he is not entitled to have legal fees paid for by the group, as he has sought. The lawsuit also alleges that text messages from Cox show he was in on the coup attempt with North.
“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 ... conspiracy,” the lawsuit said.
Cox, who has been with the group since 1995, is now on administrative leave, the New York Times first reported.
He denied the suit’s allegations, saying in a statement, “The allegations against me are offensive and patently false. For over 24 years I have been a loyal and effective leader in this organization.”
The Ackerman agency ― which helped create the embarrassing NRATV, an online video channel that has proved a drain on the NRA’s finances ― announced in May that it was ditching its association with the group. And in a lawsuit also filed Wednesday, Ackerman said the NRA owes it $1.6 million in unpaid bills, The Daily Beast reported.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.