Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

At NRA civil trial, ex-finance chief questioned about Oliver North contract

By 37ci3 Jan17,2024

The internal turmoil that plagued the National Rifle Association five years ago resurfaced during a witness testimony Tuesday. civil corruptiontion trial in New YorkWhen asked the former chief financial officer of the gun rights group about his contract settlement with the NRA’s then-president Oliver North.

Wilson “Woody” Phillips, the NRA’s chief financial officer from 1993 to 2018, said on the second day of testimony that he was aware of North’s 2018 contract with Ackerman McQueen, the group’s longtime advertising firm. And when the firm later sought reimbursement from the NRA for paying North more than $1 million a year, Phillips testified that she did not bring the contract to the attention of the nonprofit group’s audit committee.

The contract, which included serving as host for the North NRATV web series, was notable because the position of NRA president is typically unpaid and considered ceremonial.

North, a US Marine lieutenant colonel at the center of the Reagan era. The Iran-Contra scandalwould be resign as president In April 2019, less than a year after accepting the job. His departure from the organization comes amid reports that he is battling NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre over alleged financial improprieties over the organization’s spending. threatened to leak harmful information About LaPierre unless he resigns as CEO.

North once hosted the now-defunct MSNBC political talk show Equal Time from 1999-2000. MSNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

LaPierre appeared to have won the dispute with the North by retaining his power, but later scrutiny of New York Attorney General Letitia James’ filing of a lawsuit grew. Court in 2020 LaPierre alleged that Phillips and two other NRA executives violated nonprofit laws and misused millions of dollars in NRA funds for personal gain. John Frazer, the NRA’s corporate secretary and general counsel, is another defendant in the civil lawsuit.

Days before the January 8 trial, a fourth defendant — former chief of staff and executive director of general operations Joshua Powell — agreed to settle with James’ office and pay $100,000 in restitution to the NRA. He is still expected to testify.

Before the trial began, LaPierre, 74, announced at the end of this month that he would step down from the group he led for more than three decades.

He is accused of embezzling millions of dollars from the NRA to spend on “luxury perks” for himself, including private use of private jets, expensive meals, travel consultants, personal security and trips to the Bahamas for himself and his family.

The New York Attorney General’s office alleges that Phillips engaged in practices that violated NRA policies and failed to fulfill his fiduciary duty, and questioned conflicts of interest involving various vendors and NRA executives, including himself.

None of the defendants were charged as part of James’ plea. The NRA has operated as a nonprofit charitable corporation in New York since 1871, and James is seeking financial penalties against the defendants and banning them from leading any nonprofit group doing business in New York. James initially asked for the NRA to be disbanded entirely, but the judge disagreed.

Phillips, 75, has faced repeated questioning from an attorney in the attorney general’s office about his actions as CFO and treasurer under LaPierre.

He was asked Tuesday about a $70,000 check the NRA sent to an organization in May 2018. reported It was set up by Ackerman McQueen’s attorney to help LaPierre buy a $6 million mansion in Dallas. The deal didn’t move forward, but the check became part of the attorney general’s investigation into the tangled finances of the NRA. This was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2019.

Phillips also noted that Ackerman conducted annual audits with McQueen, but the firm maintains those records and they are not kept at NRA headquarters in Virginia because they contain sensitive information that not all employees are privy to.

“You didn’t want them to see things that could make headlines,” asked a lawyer for the AG’s office.

“That’s right,” Phillips replied.

In testified last weekPhillips said the NRA paid him travel and hotel expenses for three years between Dallas and Virginia, where he moved, and did not report those expenses to the NRA’s compensation committee.

A lawyer in the attorney general’s office also questioned Phillips about contracts he gave to his ex-girlfriend that she didn’t disclose.

On Tuesday afternoon, Phillips faced cross-examination by the other defendants, as well as his own attorneys. He agreed with his lawyer that he had relied on outside auditors to help audit the group’s finances and that “if you see something, you say something.”

Cross-examination was expected to resume on Wednesday.

The group’s membership has dwindled in recent years amid the NRA’s declining finances, and leaders rolled back spending on long-term programs to improve budget deficits.

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By 37ci3

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