The National Rifle Association plunged further into chaos Wednesday as its top lobbyist resigned, its television arm shut down and the organization severed all business ties with its longtime advertising agency.
Christopher W. Cox, who was on administrative leave, officially stepped down days after being accused in a lawsuit of participating in an alleged extortion scheme to oust the organization’s chief executive, Wayne LaPierre. Cox has denied the allegations.
LaPierre informed the NRA staff of Cox’s resignation in an email. In it, he cited the allegations in the lawsuit as the reason Cox was placed on leave. He also thanked Cox for his years at the organization and his advocacy of Second Amendment rights.
Cox could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Cox received about $1.1 million in compensation in 2017, the NRA’s most recent tax filing shows. As second-in-command, he led the NRA’s powerful political arm, which spent a record $30 million to help elect President Trump.
The resignation has sparked worry among some staffers and board members, who note that Virginia lawmakers are convening for a special session on gun control and that the Democratic presidential candidates are aggressively promoting anti-gun platforms.
Cox’s departure comes as another potent NRA force has been closed. An NRA spokesman said NRATV — which sometimes streamed dire, dystopian programming that had nothing do to with guns — no longer exists. It had long been controversial, with one segment digitally adding Ku Klux Klan hoods to trains in the children’s show “Thomas the Tank Engine,” a criticism of the show’s producers’ trying to make its characters more diverse.
Numerous members of NRA’s board were concerned that NRATV strayed too far into politics and away from Second Amendment advocacy. Its shutdown was first reported by the New York Times.
NRATV was a collaboration between the organization and its longtime advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, with which it is embroiled in several lawsuits. The end of NRATV also marks the final severing of the business relationship between the two organizations, which worked closely together for decades and helped brand the NRA as a combative group that would aggressively defend Second Amendment rights.
“The NRA regrets that a longstanding, formerly productive relationship comes to an end in this fashion,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam wrote in a letter Tuesday to Ackerman chief executive Revan McQueen.
In a statement Wednesday, Ackerman accused the NRA of refusing to make good on millions of dollars in “delinquent payments” owed to the firm but said it was ready to break with the group.
“For Ackerman McQueen, it is time to move on to a new chapter without the chaos that has enveloped the NRA,” the company said.
The changes come at a difficult time for the NRA. In April, LaPierre told the organization’s board of directors that its then-president, Oliver North, would release a letter detailing a “devastating” account of the organization’s finances if LaPierre did not step down. Cox is alleged to have participated in what the NRA calls that extortion attempt, according to the lawsuit filed last week against North.
North resigned, saying that the organization’s finances were in “clear crisis.”
The NRA is also facing a probe of its nonprofit status by the New York attorney general, and a congressional investigation.