NRA Rebuffs U.S. Senators Investigating Oliver North Claims
(Bloomberg) -- The National Rifle Association won’t cooperate with an investigation by three Democratic senators into allegations of financial improprieties raised by the group’s former president, Oliver North, the lawmakers said.
The senators had requested information on May 3 from the NRA and its largest vendor, the advertising and public relations agency Ackerman McQueen Inc., after North warned fellow board members that spending on legal fees, travel and clothing by senior executives had violated the gun-rights group’s mission and threatened its tax-exempt status. North was forced out in the power struggle.
Ackerman McQueen, which cut ties with the NRA last week after nearly four decades, is engaged in a bitter legal fight involving its billing practices and contract with North, who worked with the firm while serving as the NRA’s unpaid president. The firm told lawmakers that the NRA hasn’t granted it permission to turn over materials.
“The NRA’s legal problems are mounting and potentially threatening its tax-exempt status,” the three senators said Monday. “We are dismayed by the lack of cooperation from the NRA. Attempting to thwart the cooperation of other organizations is outrageous and unacceptable.”
A lawyer for the NRA said the ad agency is “acting in bad faith.”
“Of course, the NRA has no issue with Ackerman McQueen responding to the requests of the committee, as long as the agency does so in a manner that is protective of the association’s confidential information and recognizes the agency’s legal and contractual obligations,” William A. Brewer III said in an email.
In a letter from the NRA released Monday by Senators Ron Wyden, Robert Menendez and Sheldon Whitehouse of the Finance Committee, the group said that many of the documents sought by the lawmakers were publicly available. It added that it couldn’t comment on privileged communications and personnel issues.
“The matters in question have been reviewed and vetted by the NRA’s board of directors through its appropriate committees, and will continue to be reviewed as needed,” General Counsel John Frazer wrote on May 16, the day of the deadline set by the senators.
As minority members, the senators issued the requests by letter rather than subpoena -- a step that would have given them more leverage in investigating the NRA.
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