Three more National Rifle Association leaders have stepped down, CNN has learned, in a broadening of a leadership exodus amid a controversy over the group’s spending.
Country music singer and NRA board member Craig Morgan has resigned, sources with knowledge of the matter tell CNN, and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress stepped down on Monday. David Lehman, the deputy executive director and general counsel at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, also is leaving the organization, the sources tell CNN.
Both Morgan and Childress were prominent public faces for the NRA. Morgan appeared frequently on the group’s now-defunct streaming video service NRATV and even hosted his own program on the network. Lehman was the deputy to then executive director Chris Cox, who resigned in June and was also the NRA’s top lobbyist. Lehman was filling the role of top lobbyist when he departed the organization.
The departures are the latest to roil the organization’s leadership, which has seen several members resign in recent weeks amid the controversy over NRA spending and the forced resignation of former NRA President Oliver North.
CNN has reached out to both Morgan and Lehman for comment, and the NRA has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
In a letter announcing his resignation, which was first reported by NPR and obtained by CNN, Childress — who owns a successful racing team and company — said he wants to “fully focus” on his businesses, feeling that he owes that “to my employees, our partners, my family, and myself.
“Since proudly agreeing to serve on the NRA Board, I have supported the organization and its important mission to preserve and protect our Constitutional rights,” Childress wrote in a letter dated Monday. “But when, as now, I am no longer able to be fully engaged in any commitment I have made, it becomes time for me to step down. I have reached that point in my ability to continue to serve the NRA. As such, I must resign.”
But Childress, along with North, previously raised concerns about the amount of money the NRA was spending on outside lawyer William Brewer and his firm Brewer Attorneys & Counselors, according to documents obtained by CNN.
When North raised concerns about the NRA’s spending, he was effectively ousted as the group’s president. NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre accused North of trying to stage a coup, which North denied, and the NRA later sued North.
The NRA has denied that any of its payments to Brewer Attorneys are improper. Childress did not cite the financial controversy in his resignation letter.
In a statement, NRA President Carolyn Meadows praised Childress’ “many years of service to the NRA.”
“We wish him all of the best in his business endeavors and appreciate his desire to focus on those interests at this time,” she said in a statement. “Of course, we are pleased to see that Mr. Childress will continue to support the organization and the constitutional freedoms in which it believes.”
A former racecar driver, Childress founded the NASCAR team Richard Childress Racing in 1969. The North Carolina-based team has since grown to be one of the largest NASCAR organizations, with championships won by racer Dale Earnhardt. Childress was inducted into the NASCAR hall of fame in 2017.
Before Morgan was a country artist, the “That’s What I Love About Sunday” singer served in the US Army and Army Reserves.
Morgan also served as one of several NRA members that joined President Donald Trump’s “Second Amendment coalition” days before the 2016 presidential election, according to The Guardian.
Wave of resignations
It was not immediately clear when Morgan and Lehman announced their departures from the NRA, which has seen several top officials leave over the past few months.
Last week, Julie Golob, a professional sport shooter, announced that she will not be finishing her full three-year term as an NRA board director, and three NRA members from the more than 70-member board resigned after raising concerns about reports of lavish spending and mismanagement by LaPierre, The Washington Post reported.
Cox resigned in June after NRA leadership accused him of participating in an attempt to overthrow LaPierre — a charge Cox denied to The New York Times.
Jennifer Baker exited her role in July as the director of public affairs for the NRA lobbying arm.
The NRA has also been locked in a legal battle with its former longtime advertising partner Ackerman McQueen, and shut down production in June of its online streaming network, NRATV, which was operated by Ackerman.
The New York attorney general and Washington, DC, attorney general have opened investigations into the NRA and its foundation finances.