NRA Response To Ack-Mac Terminating Contract

The NRA has responded to the news that Ackerman McQueen has moved to terminate their contract. Interestingly, the place where I find the most complete version of their statements is on Bloomberg. Go figure.

The statements made on behalf of the NRA come from their outside counsel William Brewer III and NRA Public Affairs Director Andrew Arulanandam.

From Bloomberg:

“It is not surprising that Ackerman now attempts to escape the consequences of its own conduct,” William A. Brewer III, a lawyer for the NRA, said in a statement. “When confronted with inquiries about its services and billing records, Ackerman not only failed to cooperate — it sponsored a failed coup attempt to unseat Wayne LaPierre. The NRA alleges that Ackerman not only attempted to derail an investigation into its conduct, but unleashed a smear campaign against any who dared to hold the agency accountable.”


NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the group would begin shifting its communications work. “We have an opportunity to elevate our brand, communicate with a broader community of gun owners and press the advantage in the upcoming 2020 elections,” he said in a statement.

As I said in an earlier post, it looks like Brewer is angling to be the provider of both legal and PR services to the NRA. That would be a serious mistake in my opinion. Arulanandam’s statement does give me a little hope that the NRA will beginning reaching out to more than just conservatives for support. However, they may have burned their bridges on that.

Even though the NRA and Ack-Mac were facing off in court, they still continued to work together. Indeed, Ack-Mac was in the room when in the Board of Directors went into executive session at their board meeting. We find this out from a court filing made by the NRA in their suit against Ack-Mac. The motion asks for a freeze in the proceedings due to Ack-Mac coming into possession of the Powerpoint slides that William Brewer III used to outline the legal strategy.

Again, from Bloomberg.

Then came the alleged subterfuge: An employee of Brewer gave a thumb drive with the PowerPoint file to an audio-visual assistant at the meeting so he could load it onto a laptop computer to display. That AV man was an employee of Ackerman McQueen and later “absconded with a digital copy of the presentation,” according to an NRA filing Thursday in Virginia state court.

After an employee of Brewer’s firm realized the laptop was gone, he called the Ackerman employee, who said he had deleted the presentation, according to the filing. But two weeks later, a lawyer representing Ackerman notified an NRA attorney that he was in possession of not one but two thumb drives onto which the the PowerPoint presentation had been copied. He said no one at his firm reviewed the document because it appeared confidential. He offered to destroy or deliver the drives.

The NRA isn’t satisfied. It filed an emergency motion seeking to halt the lawsuit until it gets to the bottom of how its legal strategy ended up in the possession of Ackerman and its law firm. Virginia ethical guidelines instruct lawyers who receive misdirected communications to promptly notify their legal adversaries. But the NRA claims the conduct by Ackerman has done “imminent, irreparable harm” to it and asked the court to consider disqualifying the firm’s lawyers.

“The facts uncovered so far raise grave concern, because AMc stole the NRA’s confidential and privileged information for its benefit,” the group said. “The PowerPoint provides a roadmap of the NRA’s strategy in the litigation, as well as the thoughts, mental impressions and work product of the NRA’s counsel.”

I’m sure the NRA would like to disqualify Ack-Mac’s attorneys. I’ve read their counter-claim against the NRA and it is certainly better written than the NRA’s original complaint. I will admit to being a bit picky about the quality of writing in legal briefs as I’ve read a lot of good ones over the years for this blog.

As it is, what brilliant person in executive management thought it was a good idea to have employees of the company you are suing to provide technical support? Moreover, it leads to the question as to whether Wayne and Company are so intertwined with Ack-Mac that they can’t tell the difference between an Ack-Mac employee and a NRA employee?

Ack-Mac Moves To End Contract With NRA

The NRA’s longtime advertising firm Ackerman McQueen has formally provided notice that they will be moving to terminate their contract according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the announcement Wednesday, Ackerman said it had formally provided a notice to terminate its contract with the NRA, claiming the agreement already had been “constructively terminated” by the NRA’s own “inexplicable actions.”

The NRA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ad firm said it had implored all parties to stay true to the NRA’s membership, but instead was “attacked in frivolous lawsuits and defamed with made-up stories” peddled to the news media.

This move comes on the heels of two lawsuits by the NRA against Ackerman McQueen and a counterclaim by Ack-Mac.

There is no word what will happen to NRATV which is produced for the NRA by Ack-Mac. As a reminder, NRATV personalities such as Cam Edward and Ginny Simone are Ack-Mac employees  while others like Dana Loesch are independent contractors.

While many of us have long wanted Ack-Mac gone or have, at the minimum, wanted a competitive RFP (request for proposal) search for an ad firm, this is a bit of a surprise to see Ack-Mac just walking away. It could mean that they see the NRA as a diminishing source of revenue and are fleeing like rats from a sinking ship. Alternatively, it could be a recognition by Ack-Mac of the rise of William Brewer III and his attempt to be the one stop shop for both legal and PR work for the NRA. Only time (and targeted information leaks) will tell.

Ack-Mac Letter Regarding LaPierre Expenses

Over and above Wayne LaPierre’s spending on his wardrobe are expenses he billed to Ackerman-McQueen for travel, food, and apartment rental for an intern according to a letter they sent to him on April 22nd. These expenses have become the basis for stories in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and many other publications.

From the Wall Street Journal:

National Rifle Association Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre billed the group’s ad agency $39,000 for one day of shopping at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique, $18,300 for a car and driver in Europe and had the agency cover $13,800 in rent for a summer intern, according to newly revealed NRA internal documents.

The documents, posted anonymously on the internet, provide new details of the clothing, travel and other expenses totaling more than $542,000 that Ackerman McQueen Inc. alleges Mr. LaPierre billed to it.

The travel expenses allegedly include more than $200,000 in “Air Transportation” costs during a one-month period in late 2012 and early 2013, in part related to a two-week trip over Christmas to the Bahamas by Mr. LaPierre.

The additional details behind the ad agency’s claims comes as Mr. LaPierre faces internal scrutiny at the NRA over his expenses amid an extraordinary falling-out between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen.

Carolyn Meadows, the new NRA President, in a statement to the WSJ said:

The NRA released a statement from Carolyn Meadows, its new president, who said the “entire board is fully aware of these issues. We have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre.” She added that “it is troubling and pathetic that some people would resort to leaking information to advance their agendas.”

I sure hope Mrs. Meadows is using the royal we to refer to herself when she says “we have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre” because I would hope that some board members – and I know there are some who don’t have full confidence in Wayne.

These photos of the letters seem to have been taken of a letter that was printed in landscape mode which explains why pages 3 and 5 only contain one line of data.

There has been much speculation about then-intern Megan Allen and why her apartment expenses were covered in part or full for three months.  I’m not going to get into these but I suggest you check out her LinkedIn page for her current position with the NRA and her work and educational background. Given the controversy, I’d do that sooner than later.  As to the apartment complex, The Ridgewood II by Windsor apartments are located in Fairfax.

Ack-Mac Letter Regarding Clothing Purchases

Suing Ackerman-McQueen might have been a smokescreen as some have said to cover the fiduciary lapses of NRA executives and board members but it seems to have become a bonfire. We are now finding out that Wayne LaPierre was quite the clothes horse. Given his preference for navy blue suits and white shirts, you have to wonder just how many he needed.

As I facetiously said on Facebook, for that amount of money, Wayne could have flown to Hong Kong, stayed in a first-class hotel, gotten measured, and come home with quite a few custom suits that looked like that they actually fit him for a heckuva lot less money. Indeed, he could have even been measured by many Hong Kong custom tailors here in the United States as his measurements changed over time.

Ackerman McQueen’s Statement On NRA Lawsuit

Ackerman McQueen is the largest and oldest ad agency in Oklahoma City. An Oklahoma City news, politics, and entertainment website, The Lost Ogle, refers to them as “OKC’s most revered and reviled ad agency.” Not living in Oklahoma, I can speak to the veracity of that comment. However, their article was useful in pointing me to the complete statement from Ack-Mac on the NRA lawsuit.

From The Oklahoman:

“During a three-week review, an NRA forensic auditing firm received every single piece of information they (the NRA) requested.

Further, the NRA has had consistent access to any and all documents regarding NRATV analytics.

Despite the representation set forth in their lawsuit, the NRA had the personnel contract they claim AM (Ackerman McQueen) withheld last week before they filed their lawsuit. It was provided by the Williams & Connolly law firm. The transfer occurred as a result of a process for delivery of such highly confidential information.

This flagrant misrepresentation, along with other false claims, serve as the foundation of malicious intent exemplified by this lawsuit.

Months ago, legal counsel informed the NRA that “Mr. Brewer himself has an irreconcilable conflict of interest. Mr. Brewer is the son-in-law of Angus McQueen and brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen’s CEO, Revan McQueen. Mr. Brewer has demonstrated, in words and deeds, his animus for Ackerman McQueen and these family members and that animus pervades the Brewer firm’s dealings with Ackerman McQueen, whether dealing directly with Ackerman McQueen or through other members of his firm.”

Ackerman McQueen has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years. The NRA’s action is frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company and the future of that 38-year relationship.

This lawsuit affects not only Ackerman McQueen, but the members of the organization whose dedication to the Second Amendment is shared equally with the defendants in this case. Much like we have done for the NRA and the Second Amendment over the past 38 years, we too will defend our position and performance aggressively.”

You can tell this was written by a PR person. That last paragraph is evidence of that.  As to their lawfirm, Williams and Connolly is pretty fancy. Reports say their first year associates start at $200 grand. You have to bill a lot to be able to pay that.

The NRA Sues Their Ad Agency Ackerman McQueen (Update)

I don’t begin to know or understand all the internal politics and machinations at the National Rifle Association. I do know that advertising firm Ackerman McQueen and their PR subsidiary Mercury Group have long been considered the power behind the throne. If reports are to be believed, they are the ones who orchestrated the ascension of Wayne LaPierre and the eventual departure of the late Neal Knox. Having heard the story from multiple sources, I give them a lot of credence.

Thus, it was quite surprising to read in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that the NRA was suing Ackerman McQueen and Mercury Group. The story has since been picked up by the New York Times, Fox News, the Washington Post, and a number of other media outlets.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday, April 12, 2019, in the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria (Virginia). The lawsuit accuses Ackerman McQueen of impeding efforts by the NRA to inspect book and records including contracts related to the existing services agreement. This inspection is essential for the NRA Board to fulfill its fiduciary duty and to comply with New York non-for-profit law which governs the NRA’s activities since it is incorporated in that state.

The specific concerns that the NRA sought to investigate include:

  • Out of pocket expenses that lacked documentation as required by the Services Agreement
  • Lack of transparency regarding annual budgets as well as adherence to the budgets by Ackerman McQueen
  • Lack of transparency regarding “fair market value” determinations for services
  • Concerns that the NRA was being invoiced for the full salaries of NRA-Dedicated Personnel despite these people spending time on non-NRA clients
  • Refusal to provide data in writing on number of visitors, viewership numbers, and other performance metrics related to NRATV

A footnote also said that many of NRA’s stakeholders were concerned “that NRATV’s messaging – on topics far afield of the Second Amendment – deviated from the NRA’s core mission and values.” I know many of my friends in the Second Amendment community shared this concern.

I should note at this point that NRATV is owned by Ackerman McQueen and that personalities such as Cam Edwards and Ginny Simone are actually Ack-Mc employees. This, in turn, is the heart of the other major aspect of this lawsuit – the role of Oliver North with Ackerman McQueen and to whom he owes his allegiance.

The lawsuit alleges that Audit Committee of the Board of Directors sought to review the full contract between Ackerman McQueen and Col. North but was rebuffed. Moreover, North’s attorneys indicated he would only “disclose a copy of the contract to the NRA subject to AMc’s consent.”

 The NRA’s General Counsel was finally allowed to see the contract but was not allowed to have a copy. This review by the General Counsel led to many questions. These included a) was North a 3rd-party contractor or an employee of Ack-Mc with a duty of loyalty to them; b) whether previously disclosed costs borne by the NRA for the “North Contract” were accurate; and c) “whether the contract imposed obligations on Col. North that prevent him from communicating fully and honestly with other NRA fiduciaries about AMc.” Thus, the NRA says it became determined to resolve these issues.

The suit asks that Ackerman McQueen be found in breach of contract, that they be required to furnish the NRA copies of all AMc-Third Party NRA Contracts, that they be ordered to furnish the NRA with copies of annual budgets for the period 2016-2018, a list of all NRA-Dedicated personnel and the amount of time they devote to the NRA account, and copies of all records that would show the costs to the NRA or the NRA Foundation (from Jan 1, 2018 through April 1, 2019) incurred by North’s American Heroes series, from compensation to Col. North, from office space rented for Col. North or related staff, and whether each item was billed specifically to the NRA, the Foundation, or both.

Ackman McQueen contends this lawsuit is the work of the NRA’s outside counsel William Brewer III who is the in-law of their co-CEOs Revan and Angus McQueen. However, the lawsuit is brought by the Virginia law firm of  Briglia Hundley not by Mr. Brewer’s firm. Todd Rathner, NRA Board Member, speculates that the attack on Mr. Brewer is the work of the pro-AckMc faction of the Board in an effort to undermine Wayne LaPierre.

Board members Todd Rathner and Joel Friedman are on the record about the lawsuit with the New York Times.

The suit culminates the fracturing of a more than three-decade relationship between Ackerman and the N.R.A., going back to the shaping of such memorable lines as Charlton Heston’s proclaiming that his gun would have to be pried “from my cold, dead hands.” Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the N.R.A., had previously been a steadfast champion of the Ackerman relationship.


“I think it says something about Wayne’s character, even though he’s had a long-term working business relationship with a vendor, he’s willing to do what is right and necessary for the N.R.A. and its members,” said Todd Rathner, a board member of the rifle association.


Joel Friedman, another board member, said he was dismayed that the documents had not been turned over.


“It leaves you questioning, and you can come up with all these potential different scenarios as to why, but none of them are good,” he said.


“My mind goes to: Are they overcharging us? That’s one,” he added. “Two, are there things charged to us that were not part of the contract? Then, No. 3, has there been a misallocation of personnel?”

It will be interesting to hear the discussion, if any, of this case at the NRA Annual Meeting which starts in little more than a week. As for me, the fact that Board members are finally questioning the costs as well as the role of Ackerman McQueen is good news. In a saner world, with a smaller board that held actual power, the Ackerman McQueen contract would have been put up for bid multiple times over the years. That it hasn’t is a disgrace.

UPDATE:  Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned had this to say, in part, about the lawsuit.

This is a struggle that needs to happen. Bitter and I are not as anti-Ack-Mac as some folks. We think there’s merit to some of their work, and they do some things do well. But we also believe their relationship with NRA is unhealthy, and there probably is not be any fixing it. Sometimes you’re just better off pulling the tooth, rather than trying to save it. This is probably one of those cases.

I had a call out of the blue late this afternoon from a person on the NRA Board. It was off the record and not for attribution. This person thinks that the lawsuit might be a smokescreen to protect the NRA from New York State. It gives the impression that they are taking their fiduciary and financial duties seriously. As both the lawsuit notes and I mentioned above, the State of New York revised their statutes to require not-for-profits to do more due diligence and to pay more attention to where members and donors money is being spent.

The rationale behind this being a smokescreen to protect the NRA is that, according to this person, the NRA had not been requiring any sort of invoices or other detailed record-keeping for services rendered in years gone by. In other words, Ack Mc said here is how much we want and please send us a check. God forbid that they were that slack but I believe it.

So that you can read the whole lawsuit, I’m embedding it at the bottom of this post.