The turmoil confronting the National Rifle Association ramped up this week with a well-known board member and former congressman calling for the organization to abandon its longtime chief executive.
Former Florida Rep. Allen West on Tuesday said he cannot support CEO Wayne LaPierre, in an escalation of the internal strife that has plagued the powerful gun lobby in recent months.
In a statement on his website, West cited concerns about financial mismanagement and “cronyism” within the nearly 150-year-old organization.
“There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the board of directors,” West, now in his second term on the board, wrote. “It is imperative that the NRA cleans its own house.”
West said he had not been aware of allegations of misspending that spilled into public view in recent days. Leaked NRA documents first reported by The Wall Street Journal over the weekend described LaPierre as billing the NRA’s ad agency for clothing and travel expenses, including $39,000 for a day of shopping at a Los Angeles boutique and more than $18,000 to hire a car and driver in Europe.
The organization’s new president, Carolyn Meadows, and Charles Cotton, who chairs the NRA’s audit committee, defended LaPierre against the allegations in the leaked documents in recent days, calling them “stale news.” The entire board was “fully aware” of the issues, they said.
On Tuesday, Meadows, Cotton and the board’s second vice president, Willes Lee, continued to defend the board’s actions and appeared to criticize West.
“We should end this petty bickering immediately,” the trio said in a statement. “Now is the time for the NRA to return to its core mission: representing our members and defending the constitutional freedoms of America.”
An NRA spokesman said LaPierre would not comment. “There will be no further comment beyond this statement at this point in time,” NRA’s Andrew Arulanandam told CNN.
West is the only board member to publicly criticize in the wake of a contentious standoff at the NRA’s annual gathering last month. At the meeting, then-NRA President Oliver North sought to topple LaPierre in a dispute over the association’s financial management and leadership.
LaPierre prevailed in the public brawl, and Meadows succeeded North as NRA president.
In his statement, West said he had “never been told, advised, informed or consulted about any of these details” mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article about LaPierre’s spending.
In their statement, Meadows, Cotton and Lee said the board had a “healthy discussion” at its April meeting “where the issues that are being reported upon now were vetted and discussed.”
“It shocks the conscience to read that certain board members have apparently not kept themselves updated, informed and active on matters that are of interest to our 5 million members,” they added.
The NRA has been embroiled in controversy for months. It is suing its longtime ad agency, alleging the firm has failed to justify its billing. And last month, the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James announced it had launched an investigation into the NRA, which is chartered in New York.