Ackerman McQueen’s Response To NRA Bankruptcy Dismissal

As the NRA’s former public relations and advertising firm, Ackerman-McQueen, had argued for a dismissal in the NRA’s bankruptcy with a trustee as an alternative, I reached out to them for a comment.

I spoke with Bill Power, Executive Vice President – Public Relations, of Ackerman McQueen. He noted that he had previously served at one time as the Director of Public Affairs for the NRA.

His verbatim official statement is:

This decision underscores the incompetence and failure of NRA leadership and its legal team. This is not the first case of a flawed NRA strategy to protect one top official, as this situation has increasingly disturbed NRA members.

They Can’t Claim Ignorance Any More

The NRA Board of Directors has long relied upon the word of EVP Wayne LaPierre for virtually everything. If a disturbing matter was brought up to them, they, for the most part, would say something like, “Well, I talked to Wayne and he said blah, blah, blah.” They considered this as doing their duty of care as a Board member.

As I pointed out in my post on fiduciary duties, duty of care means to give “reasonable attention and care to providing oversight.” Under New York public charities law, that includes knowledge of the organization’s finances.

Over the last few days, I have listened intermittently to the hearings held on the NRA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I have also read synopses of these hearings on other sites. Some of the things I heard had me shaking my head while shouting at the computer, “How could you not know?”

For example, Wayne LaPierre testified before the court that he had no knowledge of the consulting contract awarded to former CFO Woody Phillips and that he had only recently learned of it. The contract in question was for $30,000 monthly to run for four full years. The total value of the contract would then be worth $1,440,00. How can a CEO not know that his recently retired CFO just got a contract worth over $1.4 million?

The one thing I do believe that came out of Wayne’s rambling testimony is his acknowledgement that he didn’t inform the Board of his intention to seek bankruptcy before filing it. If he had, I believe more Board members would have reacted at the time like Judge Phil Journey saying “we didn’t authorize that.” Their ex post facto motion saying they authorized filing bankruptcy then and now is frankly nothing more than a cover garment.

On Friday I listened to live testimony from Wayne’s former BFF Tony Makris as well as AckMac CFO Bill Winkler. A deposition of former NRA CFO Woody Phillips was also read into the record with one NYAG attorney reading the questions and another reading Phillips’ response. The key thing that was continually pointed out by Makris and Winkler is that the vague invoices sent by AckMac were at the direct request of Wayne. This continued even after a new agreement was reached that stated the only deviations had to be in writing from Wayne as EVP. Wayne, of course, still continued with his way of not putting his wishes in writing. Greg Garman, one of the NRA’s attorney, pounded on AckMac’s Bill Winkler about ignoring the letter of the contract and going along with how things had been done in the past. I think this was a strategic mistake on his part as it opens the door to questioning similar vague invoices from Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors.

I should note here that Woody Phillips’ testimony primarily consisted of him saying, “I decline to answer based on the privilege accorded me by 5thamendment of the US Constitution.” The one thing I can say about that is that you can’t be accused of perjury if you always take the Fifth.

As I said in the headline, the NRA Board of Directors cannot claim ignorance any longer. The beauty of WebEx is that it does a good job of capturing who is participating or listening in to an event. In this case, I saw reporters such as Danny Hakim of the NY Times, Mark Maremont of the Wall Street Journal, and Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon. I also counted at least six Board members listening in. They included Carrie Lightfoot, Anthony Colandro, Joel Friedman, Linda Walker, Howard “Walt” Walters, and Judge Phil Journey (who I expected to listen in). There may have been more as there were people who logged on by phone and not by computer.

My point is that after multiple days of testimony and over 600 documents, pleadings, exhibits, motions, and replies, it is impossible for anyone on the Board to say they don’t know what is going on. If they do, then they need to resign.

The Lawsuit That Keeps On Giving

The lawsuit and counter-lawsuit between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen is the lawsuit that keeps on giving. Reading the amended complaint filed yesterday by Ackerman McQueen is like reading about one of those Hollywood celebrity divorce cases but only better.

I give you the first three sections of AckMac’s “SECOND AMENDED THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT AGAINST WAYNE LAPIERRE & THE NRA FOUNDATION, INC.” The Complementary Spouse said to me when I started snorting that it must have been funny.

This Third-Party Complaint arises from a series of ethically questionable
undertakings by the NRA through its longtime leader Executive Vice President and CEO, Wayne LaPierre (“LaPierre”). As a result of his authoritarian management style, love of money and power, and deep personal paranoia, today, LaPierre has reduced the NRA to a cult of personality as he continues to waste membership funds on media stunts and serial litigation with only one purpose: to save his own skin.

Through the intricate financial arrangements he constructed over decades with very little oversight from the NRA Board of Directors or other executives, LaPierre was able to obtain millions of dollars in personal benefits by keeping vendors and the NRA’s own accounting
department in the dark about his personal spending. As the gathering storm clouds of a possible investigation by the New York Attorney General (“NYAG”) started to form in 2018, LaPierre became concerned the details of his financial adventurism may come to light.

LaPierre sought assistance from lawyer/media-darling, William A. Brewer III (“Brewer”), and his law firm/public-relations firm, Brewer Attorneys & Counselors (the “Brewer Firm”), who together with LaPierre’s Chief of Staff, Joshua Powell (“Powell”), formulated a plan
to pin all liability on a convenient scapegoat, deflect media attention from LaPierre’s malfeasance and failed NRA programs, and maintain LaPierre’s domination of the NRA. Many of the resulting actions were made possible by LaPierre’s paranoia and guilty conscience, as he repeatedly proclaimed that Brewer was the only one who “could keep him out of jail.” By fantastic coincidence, Brewer determined that it was AMc—a company owned by his own father-in-law— who could be blamed for all of the NRA’s malfeasance and financial woes. In return for deflecting the spotlight from LaPierre, Brewer was given free rein to reap a financial windfall in exorbitant attorney fees, displace his father-in-law’s company as the public-relations firm for the NRA, and set up AMc as the perfect “fall guy.

It was the “lawyer/media-darling” characterization of William Brewer III that had me in stitches.

While all of this is somewhat humorous to read, the sad thing is that from everything I’ve heard that Wayne LaPierre is paranoid and let Brewer be his “Rasputin” in an effort to save his own skin.

The ones to suffer from all of this will not be Wayne, Bill Brewer, or AckMac. It will be the ordinary NRA members who gave their hard-earned monies to the organization in order to protect their God-given right to self-defense as enshrined in the Second Amendment. Just when it is needed most, the NRA’s attention is on its series of lawsuits against AckMac and its bankruptcy stunt.

You can read the whole complaint here.

Josh Powell And NRA Have Split

While it was reported yesterday that Josh Powell was on administrative leave from the NRA, it now appears that their employment relationship has been severed. The initial report was based upon court filings by Ackerman McQueen in Alexandria Circuit Court.

Newsweek is reporting that an email was sent this evening to the members of the Board of Directors informing them that Powell was gone.

From Newsweek:

However, according to an internal email obtained by Newsweek, Powell has departed the NRA entirely.

It was not clear whether Powell was fired or if he resigned. The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The email clarifying the nature of Powell’s departure was sent to the board of directors Saturday evening by the NRA’s general counsel John Frazer.

“Several directors have reported receiving media queries regarding Josh Powell and his employment status with the Association,” he wrote. “For the sake of clarity, we note that Josh is no longer employed by the NRA.”

In noting the sensitivity of discussing personnel matters, Frazer made reference to “the assortment of pending and threatened litigation” facing the gun-rights group.

The Newsweek article also raised a question that someone asked me on Twitter this evening: how did Ackerman McQueen know or find out that Powell had been placed on leave?

Save the Second raised some interesting questions regarding the termination of Powell’s employment with the NRA.

From their Facebook post:

 1. Why, specifically?

2. Was this a move against Wayne’s wishes/protection?

3. Was there an insultingly generous severance package to add insult to injury after his disastrous tenure as an overpaid executive that didn’t seem to do anything right?

4. Will the problems he and his decisions/appointments caused in the NRA’s Education & Training Division be undone ?

Given that it will be classified as a personnel matter, I think the whys and wherefores of his termination may never be fully known. Moreover, unless either Wayne or one of his inner circle talks, we won’t know the answer to number 2.

We may have to wait until the Meeting of Members at the Annual Meeting in Nashville to find out if any severance package has been paid. If then.

Only time will tell if the problems Powell caused in Education and Training will be solved.

Hat Tip: Save the Second for the Newsweek article

AckMac Court Filing Noting Josh Powell’s Administrative Leave

Below is the Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Provide Meaningful and Supplemental Answers to Interrogatories. This was filed on January 23rd by attorneys for Ackerman McQueen in their legal battle with the National Rifle Association. It covers both the first and second lawsuit filed by the NRA against AckMac in City of Alexandria Circuit Court.

This is where we first learned the Wayne LaPierre’s Chief of Staff Josh Powell was on Administrative Leave. As far as I know, it had not been public knowledge before that.

There is a lot of legalese in these pages but a scan through them does give the reader a sense of the battle between the two former allies.

There is also the amusing line of Q&A indicating that Wayne was upset that someone at AckMac told the Wall Street Journal his grandniece had drawn on the walls of The Four Seasons with crayons.

2020.01.22_Ack MTC Rog Responses by jpr9954 on Scribd

Hat Tip – Beth for the document

The Divorce Gets Uglier

The divorce between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen is ugly and is getting uglier. The NRA’s reply to Ackerman McQueen’s reply and counter-claim was filed with the US District Court on Friday. There were a number of news stories yesterday that excerpted parts of the reply with regard to NRATV and its characterization by the NRA as “distasteful” and “racist“.

The reply brought attention to an episode of NRATV featuring Dana Loesch in which she portrayed Thomas the Tank Engine in a KKK hooded robe.

From page 3 of the reply:

As AMc’s bills grew ever larger, NRATV’s messaging strayed from the Second Amendment to themes which some NRA leaders found distasteful and racist. One particularly damaging segment featured children’s cartoon characters adorned in Ku Klux Klan hoods. Unfortunately, attempts by the NRA to “rein in” AMc and its messaging were met with responses from AMc that ranged from evasive to hostile. At the same time, when NRA executives sought performance metrics for NRATV, AMc contrived a pretext to demand that each interlocutor be sidelined or fired. Simultaneously, in closed-door meetings with Mr. LaPierre (which AMc insisted remain “confidential”), the agency presented fabricated and inflated sponsorship and viewership claims. The simple request for the number of “unique visitors” to the site was not answered, despite multiple attempts by Mr. LaPierre and other NRA executives. In fact, AMc’s representations to the NRA leadership regarding the viewership for the digital platform it created, presented, and administered were, by 2017, intentionally (and wildly) misleading. Tellingly, when NRATV finally shut down in June 2019, no one missed it: not a single sponsor or viewer even called, confirming what at least some NRA executives suspected—the site had limited visibility and was failing the accomplish any of its goals.

Ackerman McQueen fired back today on the “distasteful” and “racist” claims in the NRA’s court filing. Like yesterday’s press release, the gloves are off and AckMac is taking no prisoners.

Ackerman McQueen recognized and handled the offensive imagery on the show, “Relentless”, in a proper fashion, like any media company would. We identified those responsible and put new processes and oversight in place. NRA executives acknowledged the corrective action taken by Ackerman McQueen, were satisfied with the response and a couple months later, renewed NRATV for 2019.

However, if the NRA wants to conduct a public conversation about distasteful and racist, they should consider their systematic behavior. This is the same executive leadership team and Board of Directors that refused to address the Philandro Castile tragedy. This the executive leadership team that put their heads in the sand every time a board member said something the could be perceived as distasteful or racist. This is the same executive team and Board of Directors that ignored, and didn’t even watch, the impactful programming that the NOIR team produced, telling important stories on minority issues. There are countless more examples, decisions and comments that plague the organization and will be a part of AMc’s defense.

As AMc said in its latest filing, Wayne LaPierre defrauded Ackerman McQueen. When AMc representatives discovered what he, his executive team as well as the Board of Directors were really doing, and AMc refused to have any part of it, the cabal that is left at the NRA retaliated. Now they want to blame anyone else for the people they actually are.

Pages: 1 2

AckMac Goes Nuclear On NRA

The NRA filed suit against Ackerman McQueen and some of their employees in US District Court for the Northern District of Texas at the end of August. Ackerman McQueen responded to the lawsuit on October 1st with a counter-claim and added a third party complaint naming Wayne LaPierre. On Friday, the NRA filed an amended complaint. I will get to each of these in a separate post.

Thanks to Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon, we have the press release sent out by AckMac in response to the amended complaint. It takes no prisoners. After saying that Wayne LaPierre defrauded AckMac many times as they declared in their court filing, they go on to say, in part:

LaPierre controlled every aspect of NRATV for which he recruited talent, approved every budget, audited every metric and required ultimate confidentiality. Ackerman McQueen routinely offered and toward the end of the relationship demanded an outside firm audit NRATV performance but LaPierre refused. Unlike the NRA, AMc welcomes full transparency. LaPierre’s apparent paranoia and lust for secrecy fed his justification for private air travel, luxury hotels and countless other expenses for himself, his family and friends that were all paid by member dues.

The membership is being misled. The NRA is pouring tens of millions of non-profit funds into lawyers and lawsuits to cover up the abject failure of executive and board leadership. They continue to contrive allegations that they are not currently proving and will continue to not be able to prove in any legal setting. Instead they grovel at the feet of the media they used to decry, hoping to create some spin for Wayne LaPierre.

The latest NRA legal filing is another cynical attempt to distract from Wayne LaPierre’s documented mismanagement of the organization and the captive board’s complicit behavior. These collective failures are the only reason the NRA faces multiple state attorneys general investigations, a US Senate Finance Committee investigation, calls for the IRS and FBI to investigate, a class-action lawsuit and countless legal disputes filed by the NRA intended to intimidate anyone who opposes LaPierre’s reported misuse of NRA resources.

Damn!

Given that AckMac helped build the image of Wayne LaPierre from the 1990s onwards, I suspect they know more about Wayne than most do or want to know. If we needed any more proof that the symbiotic relationship between Wayne and AckMac is over, we now have it.

The Pincus Deposition – Video Excerpt

As was mentioned in yesterday’s post on the Rob Pincus’ deposition in the NRA v Ackerman McQueen case, it was explicitly acknowledged that Rob was not properly served and that he appeared voluntarily. In the video below you can hear the objections of the attorneys for AckMac to the deposition including the fact that it was delivered to a location in New Jersey where he had not lived for years. You will also hear the fact that Rob explicitly acknowledges he is appearing voluntarily when asked by the attorney from the Brewer firm Michael Collins.

Thanks to Rob for providing this video excerpt of the deposition.

UPDATE: Rob has released a second video excerpt of his deposition. In the video below, he explains how he first came across the documents that purportedly were “leaked”. It was on Facebook on a page where he didn’t even know who managed the page. You can’t get any more public domain than that!

Save the Second has a long post on their website with more details on how Rob spent Friday.

The Pincus Deposition

Earlier in June, it was revealed that a number of people had been subpoenaed in the NRA’s lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen. While most of those who received a subpoena were NRA Board of Director members, trainer and activist Rob Pincus was also served. Ostensibly, the subpoenas were to find out who leaked information such as the bills from Ackerman McQueen regarding Wayne LaPierre’s clothing purchases, Oliver North and Richard Childress’ letter regarding outside counsel William Brewer III, and other such information.

Yesterday, Rob gave his deposition in the case to attorneys representing both the NRA and Ackerman McQueen.

He noted this on Facebook about his testimony in the deposition yesterday.

As I’ve said many times, I wasn’t involved in any “leaks” and I don’t know who was. Now that is part of the court record… officially. After consider time, effort and expense.

The NRA sent a team of lawyers from VA & TX and hired a local videographer and court reporter.
They sent them to one of the most remote locations in the Continental US and rented the town hall for the proceedings.
I walked over with my daughter and she hung out with the local pre-schoolers and a friend while the deposition took place.

I had offered to provide the documents that revealed pretty clearly when I first encountered the (already public) documents and save everyone a lot of time and money. The NRA Attorney’s wanted to do this today. Ackerman’s attorneys attended via phone line and video feed.

The location was Silverton, population 630, which is the county seat of San Juan County, Colorado. In other words, it was a long way from the big city. Or even any city.

Rob was gracious enough this morning to spend 20 minutes on the phone with me providing an after-action report. We discussed a number of things in the conversation including the why of the subpoena, what he thought they were trying to find, the cost to him, the monetary costs incurred by the NRA ‘s lawyers, and more.

The deposition took five hours, two attorneys for the NRA, a court reporter who had to travel from Denver, a videographer from Durango, and an expensive video conference hook-up so that the Ackerman McQueen attorneys could participate. Rob estimated that the costs ran upwards of $20,000 before you begin to figure in the attorneys’ billable hours. It was also very needless as Rob had made a good faith offer to provide all documentation and a sworn statement on what he knew. This offer was rejected by the lawyers representing the NRA.

As Rob travels often, the date could have been adjusted so that the deposition could have taken place in a more convenient and more cost effective location for the NRA and AckMac. The attorneys for AckMac noted in the meeting for the deposition that there was no reason to rush the process as it was early in discovery and no trial date had been set. Nonetheless, the lawyers for the NRA were insistent that the deposition be taken on June 28th as it appears they were more interested in speed. Rob believes that they were more interested in finding “the leak” than they were in the case itself.

The attorneys for the NRA, Robert Cox of Briglia Hundley and Michael J. Collins of Brewer Attorneys, admitted that Rob had not been properly served with the subpoena. As such, he appeared voluntarily at this deposition. In his opinion, the subpoena itself was an abuse of the discovery process meant as a fishing expedition and was meant to intimidate Rob as he has been a vocal critic of Wayne and the “Old Guard”.

I asked Rob about the costs to him both financially and emotionally. The financial costs were the distraction from his training and other businesses plus the lost productivity. The emotional costs were much higher. He had heard horror stories from friends about what to expect so he was very wary going into the deposition. Rob found that a number of people who had been talking with him before the subpoena suddenly stopped post-subpoena. Fortunately, he found the deposition “went far better than it could have with the lawyers” as they were professional, polite, and focused on the issues.

Rob wanted the following things highlighted.

  1. The deposition established nothing was leaked to Rob, nothing was stolen, and that everything he as received was in the public domain.
  2. He appeared voluntarily. As noted above, he was not properly served.
  3. He had nothing to hide.
  4. While subpoenaed by the attorneys for the NRA, he was critical of both sides in the case. 
Rob has told me that he will have video excerpts on the deposition available later today. I will post them as they become available.
I want to thank Rob again for taking the time out of his morning and out of his time with Baby Pincus to talk with me about the deposition.

Report On The NRA V. Ackerman McQueen Hearing Today

Stephen Gutowski of the Free Beacon attended the court hearing today in Alexandra, Virginia in the case of NRA v. Ackerman McQueen. He reported on the case is a series of tweets on Twitter. The whole thread is here.

However, a couple of things just jumped out at me.

Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that William Brewer III, the probable architect of the entire series of lawsuits against Ackerman McQueen, is a AckMac client. What the hell!

I’m guessing those family ties between Brewer and the McQueens is not as frayed as one would have been led to believe. Brewer is the brother-in-law of AckMac CEO Revan McQueen and the son-in-law of former CEO Angus McQueen. Brewer’s wife is Skye McQueen Brewer.

Bill and Skye Brewer at a Ralph Lauren charity event.