The genesis of the dispute between the N.R.A. and Mr. North is a related legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most prominent contractor, the Oklahoma-based advertising firm Ackerman McQueen, which employed Mr. North. The N.R.A. has sued Ackerman, claiming it withheld documents and records from the gun group, and some officials have suggested the company may also have been overbilling. Ackerman, which has said it did nothing improper, filed a countersuit claiming that it was smeared by the N.R.A.
In yet another lawsuit, the N.R.A. has accused Ackerman of breaching confidentiality clauses in its contract and smearing Mr. LaPierre.
The new lawsuit seeks to block Mr. North’s attempt to have the N.R.A. pay his legal fees, which he has sought as he fields requests to cooperate with other litigation as well as a Senate inquiry.
“The N.R.A. believes that Col. North seeks payments from the Association to which he is not entitled,” the N.R.A.’s outside counsel, William A. Brewer III, said in a statement. (Mr. North is a retired Marine lieutenant colonel who first came to prominence during the Iran Contra hearings.) “The N.R.A. alleges that Col. North breached his fiduciary obligations — in a coordinated attack against the N.R.A. and Wayne LaPierre that involved others motivated by their own economic self-interest,” Mr. Brewer added.
In addition to implicating Mr. Cox, the new lawsuit claims that another N.R.A. board member, the former Oklahoma congressman Dan Boren, participated in the effort to oust Mr. LaPierre, and presents a piece of evidence intended to shed light on the overbilling question.
Mr. Boren is close to Ackerman and works for another Ackerman client, the Oklahoma-based Chickasaw Nation. In an exhibit filed in the latest complaint, Mr. Boren expressed concern to a Chickasaw official that Ackerman was billing the N.R.A. for “full salary to these employees that may have been working on our accounts,” adding, “I bet Ackerman is in trouble on this one.”
Another key issue in the N.R.A.’s battle with Ackerman is the role of Mr. North, who was employed by Ackerman while serving as the N.R.A.’s president; the N.R.A. has claimed that the arrangement was improper and that Ackerman wouldn’t show the N.R.A. a copy of Mr. North’s contract for months. Mr. North has said Mr. LaPierre helped negotiate the contract.