In the NRA civil trial, the former CFO was questioned about the Oliver North contract
The internal turmoil that plagued the National Rifle Association five years ago resurfaced Tuesday during testimony in a civil corruptionRIon RReal in New Yorkwhen the gun rights group’s former CFO was asked about a contract agreement for the then-NRA president Oliver North.
Wilson “Woody” Phillips, the NRA’s chief financial officer from 1993 to 2018, said during the second day of testimony that he was aware that North in 2018 had a contract with Ackerman McQueen, the group’s advertising company, for some time. long. While the company subsequently sought compensation from the NRA for paying North more than $1 million a year, Phillips testified that he did not bring the contract to the attention of the nonprofit group’s audit committee.
The contract, which included North serving as host of the NRATV web series, was notable because the position of NRA president is typically unpaid and considered ceremonial.
North, a retired US Marine lieutenant colonel who was at the heart of the Reagan era Iran-Contra scandalHe was Step down as president In April 2019, less than a year after accepting the job. His departure from the organization came amid reports of his conflict with it Wayne LaPierreCEO of the NRA, over alleged financial irregularities in the organization’s spending and that He threatened to leak harmful information About LaPierre if he does not resign as CEO.
North was once a co-host of the now-defunct MSNBC political talk show “Equal Time” from 1999 to 2000. MSNBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.
LaPierre appeared to have prevailed in the dispute with North by maintaining his power, but in the aftermath, scrutiny increased with the appointment of New York’s Attorney General Letitia James Brought Lawsuit in 2020 LaPierre, Phillips and two other NRA executives allegedly violated nonprofit laws and misused millions of dollars in NRA funds for their personal benefit. John Frazier, NRA corporate secretary and general counsel, is another defendant in the civil trial.
Just days before the trial began on Jan. 8, a fourth defendant — Joshua Powell, the former chief of staff and chief operating officer — 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 years old) announced that he would resign at the end of this month from the group he led for more than three decades.
He is accused of diverting millions of dollars from the NRA to spend on “lavish perks” for himself, including personal use of private jets, expensive meals, travel consultants, private security, and trips to the Bahamas for himself and his family.
The New York Attorney General’s Office asserts that Phillips engaged in practices that violated NRA policies and failed to assert his fiduciary duty and question conflicts of interest involving various vendors and NRA executives, including himself.
None of the defendants have been criminally charged as part of James’ lawsuit. The NRA has operated as a charitable nonprofit in New York since 1871, and James seeks to impose financial penalties on the defendants and bar them from leading any nonprofit group doing business in New York. James initially sought to dissolve the NRA entirely, but the judge disagreed.
Phillips, 75, faced repeated lines of questioning from a lawyer with the district attorney’s office about his actions as chief financial officer and treasurer under LaPierre’s supervision.
He was asked Tuesday about a $70,000 check the NRA sent in May 2018 to Kian Kahn It said It was created by Ackerman McQueen’s attorney to help LaPierre buy a $6 million mansion in Dallas. The deal never went ahead, but the check became part of the Attorney General’s Office’s investigation into the NRA’s tangled finances. It was first reported by the Wall Street Journal In 2019.
Phillips also noted that he conducted annual audits with Ackerman McQueen, but that the company kept those records and they were not kept at Virginia NRA headquarters because they contained sensitive information that not all employees were privy to.
“You didn’t want them to see things that would make headlines,” a lawyer for one of the district attorney’s offices asked.
“That’s true,” Phillips replied.
in His testimony last weekPhillips said the NRA reimbursed him for his transportation costs between Dallas, where he moved to, and Virginia, and hotels for three years, and that he did not tell the NRA’s compensation committee about those expenses.
A lawyer in the district attorney’s office also questioned Phillips about contracts awarded to his undisclosed ex-girlfriend.
On Tuesday afternoon, Phillips faced questioning from his co-defendants’ attorneys as well as his own. He agreed with his lawyer that he trusted external auditors to help review the group’s finances and that “if you see something, say something.”
Questioning is expected to resume on Wednesday.
Amid the fallout from the NRA’s faltering financial picture, the group’s membership has declined in recent years and Leaders have cut back on spending On long-term programs to improve its budget deficit.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com