EXCLUSIVE: Col. Allen West Calls for Investigation after ‘Contentious’ NRA Meeting

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Former representative Allen West (R., Fla.) called for investigation and reform at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) leadership in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon Saturday, as the historic gun group finds itself embroiled in a "contentious" board fight.

West, a retired Army colonel and member of the NRA's board, spoke with the Washington Free Beacon‘s Stephen Gutowski Saturday at the NRA's annual summit in Indianapolis, Ind.

West's comments followed a letter, penned Thursday and published in the Wall Street Journal late Friday, from NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. LaPierre accused NRA president Oliver North of "extortionist" practices intended to force LaPierre's resignation.

He described a phone call from an associate of North, in which the associate demanded LaPierre support North's reelection as NRA president. The person on the phone also threatened to publish information that "was ‘bad' for me, two other members of my executive team, and the Association," should LaPierre fail to step down from the NRA.

The letter's authors were purportedly associated with Ackerman McQueen, an NRA vendor with whom the NRA is in litigation. According to LaPierre, North "has contractual and financial loyalties" to Ackerman McQueen.

According to documents reviewed by the New York Times, North had "created a committee to review allegations of financial improprieties that threaten the N.R.A.'s status as a nonprofit organization," a move which seemed to implicate LaPierre. "To date, my repeated efforts to inquire about the propriety of management’s financial decisions have consistently been rebuffed," North said.

North, who was expected to address the NRA conference's 80,000 attendees and meet with the board, did not. He was reportedly seen flying to Washington, D.C.

On Saturday, North announced he would not be seeking another term as president.

In comments later Saturday, West described a "contentious" board meeting and called for significant change at the NRA's helm.

West promised prompt action. He stressed that the NRA's board needed to maintain transparency and deliver results to its membership, some 5.5 million Americans, according to one official tally.

"We'll meet Monday. And we have to investigate this and then we have to come up with the reforms that are necessary," he said.

"It's very important for us to have the trust and confidence of the members."

West suggested the board's diminished role had enabled the drama at the top.

"I'm a principled guy. You know, in the United States military these are the type of things that we would not allow to happen."

"I think one of the key things that we need to have is an internal audit system within the National Rifle Association," he said. "I think it's very important that the board reassert more of its control and power based upon the bylaws so that we don't have any of these, you know, surprises that pop up."

Though West declined to weigh in on the details of LaPierre and North's claims, he guaranteed membership would have accountability from the board.

"We have to report it back out to our members so that they know," West said.

"We cannot meet on Monday and not having done anything, because that would be a failure," he continued. "Failure is not an option."

The NRA convention ends Sunday.

Mikhael Smits

Mikhael Smits   Email Mikhael | Full Bio | RSS
Mikhael Smits is a Public Interest Fellow and Media Analyst at the Washington Free Beacon. He's interested in law, security policy, and today's outrage. Reach him on Twitter @mikhaelsmits or smits@freebeacon.com.

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