President Donald Trump, center, is seen with National Rifle Association executive director Chris Cox, left, and NRA chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre at the organization's annual convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 26, 2019. Photo: NRA

Chickasaw Nation drawn into internal dispute at National Rifle Association

The Chickasaw Nation is being drawn into a high-profile internal dispute at the largest gun lobby in the United States.

The Oklahoma-based tribe has no direct relationship with the National Rifle Association. But they share some strong connections that are at the center of a power battle at the organization, one that already cost the former NRA president his job and has led to other staff shakeups.

For starters, the tribe and the NRA employ the same advertising and marketing firm. Ackerman McQueen, which has handled a wide range of projects for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce, happens to be based in Oklahoma.

That's not all. Dan Boren, a Democratic former U.S. Congressman from Oklahoma who works for the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce as president of corporate development, also serves on the board of the NRA.

According to a lawsuit filed by the NRA on Wednesday, Boren recently raised concerns about Ackerman McQueen's billing practices. He suggested that the tribe may have been overpaying for the firm's services.

"I bet Ackerman is in trouble on this one," Boren wrote in an May 30 email to Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Commerce Bill Lance in reference to a report in The Wall Street Journal about the firm.

"They can't produce the backup to the invoices and were allocating full salary to these employees that may have been working on our accounts," Boren told his boss at the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce, whose portfolio includes the tribe's vast gaming enterprise as well as contracts with outside firms like Ackerman.

Posted by Seminole State College Educational Foundation of Oklahoma on Thursday, December 7, 2017
Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby speaks at the opening of the Dan and Andrea Boren Center on the campus of Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma, on December 4, 2017. Dan Boren, the President of Corporate Development for the Chickasaw Nation, is seen seated. Photo: Seminole State College Educational Foundation of Oklahoma

As the Journal noted, the NRA itself has raised similar concerns about the firm. A different lawsuit indicated Ackerman and its affiliates receive $40 million a year from the organization, The New York Times reported.

The complaint centers on the effectiveness of NRATV, one of the Ackerman's major projects for the organization. Incidentally, the firm produced, as well as for the Chickasaws as the tribe was seeking to settle a water rights dispute.

After the first lawsuit was filed, Oliver North, a favorite among the conservative Republican crowd for his role in an arms trading scandal during the Reagan administration, attempted to assert some authority in his role as president of the NRA. That's when the power struggle began, according to news reports.

Alleging financial mismanagement, North asked chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's highest-ranking staffer, to resign during the group's annual convention in April, The New York Times reported. Documents that were subsequently leaked online raised questions about LaPierre's spending habits.

Despite the potentially damaging information, no action was taken against LaPierre, who has worked at the NRA since 1991. North, on the other hand, announced during the convention that he would not seek a second term as president.

North, incidentally, did not draw a salary as NRA president, a position he assumed last September. But he was being paid by Ackerman, through a contract, to host a program on NRATV, The New York Times reported.

North, however, would not tell The Times how much was being paid. According to the NRA's lawsuit, Ackerman refused to give a copy of the contract to the organization.

“The N.R.A.’s patience has run out," the complaint stated.

In the new lawsuit, which was filed in New York state court, the NRA is calling the attempt to oust LaPierre a "widely publicized, failed coup" that was orchestrated by North and his allies at Ackerman and elsewhere. According the organization, Boren was part of the effort too -- he "helped to choreograph the ultimatum they presented to Mr. LaPierre."

The evidence presented so far, though, is thin. Besides the email, which says nothing about LaPierre, the lawsuit includes some text messages between Boren and Chris Cox, the NRA's second-in-command and its top lobbyist.

Oliver North served as president of the National Rifle Association from September 2018 through the end of April 2019. Photo: Gage Skidmore

The text messages don't say anything about LaPierre, either. But they were sent around the same time North was asking the CEO to step down during the convention in April.

"The same text messages and email messages demonstrate that another errant NRA fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated in the Ackerman/North/Boren conspiracy," the complaint in National Rifle Association v. Oliver North reads.

The mere existence of the correspondence was apparently enough to brand Cox as disloyal to LaPierre. He was suspended this week, The New York Times reported. So was his deputy chief of staff, Scott Christman, Bloomberg News reported.

Indianz.Com reached out to the Chickasaw Nation for comment about its relationship with Ackerman McQueen. A spokesperson replied with some background.

"The Chickasaw Nation practices due diligence and good stewardship in all its business operations, including contracts with vendors," the spokesperson said, without offering specifics on the tribe's dealings with the firm.

Read More on the Story
N.R.A. Suspends Second-in-Command, Implicating Him in Coup Attempt (The New York Times June 20, 2019)
NRA Suspends Two Leaders Amid Accusations of Coup Attempt (Bloomberg News June 20, 2019)
National Rifle Association Suspends Second-Highest Executive (The Wall Street Journal June 20, 2019)
NRA sidelines its top lobbyist, Chris Cox, in latest sign of internal turmoil (The Washington Post June 20, 2019)

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