A New Double Secret NRA Lawsuit Against AckMac?

The NRA filed a lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen, Mercury Group, and Tony Makris in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. According to the case’s docket number, it was filed sometime in 2022 and it was assigned to Senior Judge A. Joe Fish. The other known facts about the case are that they subpoenaed Tony Makris’ wife Elicia Warner Loughlin for documents and the case is being handled as you’d expect by Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors.

And that concludes what is public knowledge about the case because it appears to be under seal.

Knowledge that the case even existed is due to an article in The Trace by Will Van Zant posted on Thursday. You may not like that he reports for The Trace but he does get his facts correct. He discovered the case when he stumbled across a motion to quash the subpoena to Makris’ wife. That motion was filed in US District Court in South Carolina. Even knowing this, it took me several tries before I could find the motion.

According to the motion to quash the subpoena, it is contended that the subpoena is burdensome because it is overbroad and it asks for information of which she has no knowledge. Her attorney also contends that the subpoena’s secondary purpose is to annoy, embarrass, and harass Ms. Loughlin merely because Tony Makris is her husband. The motion notes that much of the information requested had already been provided to the NRA in their suit against Under Wild Skies in Virginia state court. It should be noted that the NRA lost that case and had to pay a little over a half million in damages to Under Wild Skies. In addition to what was previously provided to the NRA, Brewer is now demanding Ms. Loughlin’s personal and business tax returns for the years 2009-2018.

Ms. Loughlin is also asking for a protective order. As her attorney notes:

UWS is not a party to the above captioned litigation. Mrs. Loughlin is not affiliated with any of the Defendants, except for being married to Mr. Makris. The NRA is going to have to state with some clarity how seeking nine (9) years of tax returns from Mrs. Loughlin and her unaffiliated business entity is in any way related to the sealed action pending in Texas. The same would need to apply to the request for her deposition as she has already sat for a deposition at the request of this same party, the NRA. Quite frankly
nothing has changed since the first time she sat other than the fact that we have a new lawsuit in a different jurisdiction.

At this point it should be pointed out that not only did the NRA lose to Under Wild Skies in state court but ended up settling with AckMac to the tune of $12 million in their previous Federal lawsuit against them.

In his article about the current lawsuit, Van Zant reached out to Judge Phil Journey for comment. Phil said it seemed crazy to him and that if the facts aren’t on your side, you resort to BS.

An expert on sealed cases, Prof. Jane Kirtley of the University of Minnesota said there were usually only three reasons for a case to be sealed: to protect personal privacy, national security, or trade secrets. Prior to coming to the University of MN, Kirtley was the Executive Director of The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Van Zant quotes her as saying:

Simply wanting to avoid attention is not a valid basis, she said. “People that have disputes don’t have to use courts to settle them, they have other options,” Kirtley said. “The price of admission ought to be that the filing of a lawsuit is a matter of public record, and that if elements of a case are sealed, it’s only for legitimate reasons.”

Kirtley added:

Although judges are not supposed to seal cases merely because the parties would prefer anonymity, Kirtley said that too often they do. “Judges concentrate on the parties before them,” Kirtley said, “and if the parties are content with or agitating for secrecy, some courts don’t care and just go along to get along. But that ignores the fact that the public has an interest in open courts, in how cases proceed, in whether one party gets a break and another does not.”

Having searched for the case under its docket number (3:22-CY-1944-G) as well as a search by name in Pacer, I can confirm what Van Zant has said. No public record of this case can be found. Like him, I found that incredibly strange.

So to conclude, I have a handful of questions.

What is the purpose of this lawsuit by the NRA?

How much is Brewer making as a result of bringing another case against his late father-in-law’s company?

Why is it sealed?

And most importantly, is anyone on the Board of Directors even aware that the NRA is suing Ackerman McQueen again?

A New Low Even For The Trace

The Trace, a supposedly independent and non-partisan newsroom, has hit a new low in its reporting on the Monterrey Park, California murders. Rather than acknowledging the failure of California’s gun laws, the most restrictive in the United States, they seek to cast aspersions upon Dr. John Lott. They say he is a “major factor” in the failure to pass even more restrictive gun laws.

The Trace is trying to imply that the Monterrey Park mass shooting might not have happened but for Dr. Lott and his research. The thought that the Democrats supermajority in the California Assembly and Senate didn’t pass gun control laws due to the influence of John Lott is laughable. What they did do is pass more and more ineffective laws that are only obeyed by law abiding citizens. Perhaps if they had studied the work of Dr. Lott they might have passed laws to allow people in California to actually protect themselves.

That The Trace is attacking Dr. Lott and his research should come as no surprise given that it was founded and funded by Michael Bloomberg. His goal in founding it was to promote his gun control agenda (as if the mainstream media doesn’t already do it). While The Trace aka Trace Media Inc. is officially a separate organization from Everytown for Gun Safety (sic), it should surprise no one that the president of Trace Media and Everytown are one in the same. That’s correct, John Feinblatt, Bloomberg’s right hand man on gun control, is officially the head of both organizations.

The Trace owes Dr. Lott an apology but I certainly doubt that will ever happen.

Just Slipped Wayne’s Mind

Mike Spies of The Trace is no friend of the NRA. He also does damn good research and always has his facts correct. He pretty much has to or else he’d be sued by the NRA for libel.

He came out with a new report yesterday in The Trace regarding Wayne LaPierre’s yacht trips in the Bahamas and the role played by Colleen Sterner, Wayne’s niece, in the NRA. The yacht trips in the Bahamas were on a yacht owned by David McKenzie whose company is a contractor for the NRA. Sterner was hired to work with the NRA’s Womens Leadership Forum and is still employed by the NRA. Her hiring came at the behest of Susan LaPierre.

Wayne has testified that the yacht trips were for security reasons. This was especially true of the 2013 trip as it happened just a few months after the Newtown school murders. What Wayne failed to mention in his sworn testimony is that this trip just happened to coincide with his niece’s wedding in the Bahamas and that both couples then cruised around the Bahamas afterwards.

From the article:

Under questioning about the yacht trip, LaPierre did not disclose the wedding. Instead, he testified under oath that he used the boat that summer because his life was in imminent danger. He said that trip — the first of six annual summer voyages on the yacht in the Bahamas, from 2013 to 2018 — was a “security retreat” and the only way he could be safe after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. LaPierre explained that he was under “Presidential threat without Presidential security” and that the boat “was offered” as a refuge. When he finally got to the yacht, he recalled thinking, “Thank God I’m safe, nobody can get me here.”

Internal NRA documents, other records, and interviews with former staffers suggest that LaPierre repeatedly made misleading and possibly false statements under oath about the yacht and his niece. LaPierre testified that Sterner, whom he hired at the NRA, was an integral employee in the organization, but former colleagues, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, say she did little work. 

The NRA’s outside counsel Bill Brewer contends that these trips were disclosed and they were for security reasons. Note that supposedly Brewer represents the NRA and not Wayne LaPierre. Right.

As to Mrs. Sterner, numerous staffers involved with the WLF say she really did very little work for the Forum. The work she did do such as ordering flowers was rather menial. No one has mentioned nepotism but it is what it is. One of the events she was supposed to be involved with was a 2017 event held by the WFL in conjunction with the Safari Club International Convention.

From the article:

The former staffers expressed astonishment to me at LaPierre’s claims under oath. “Colleen was not involved in the planning of, or participation in, any event or donor visits,” one said. “If she and her husband were there, neither of them had a hand in helping coordinate donor activities, events, or soliciting items for the annual auction.” The person added: “There were corporate relations individuals who needed to be at events during show season and had children at home. They were never offered any enhanced accommodation, let alone traveling by private jet with their spouse and child.” A second person said that “there was absolutely no indication” Sterner worked at the Las Vegas gathering. She could not be found on the convention floor or at parties, dinners, receptions, or strategy breakfasts hosted by Susan. At one point, the WLF sponsored a private luncheon for about a dozen wealthy female hunters who, based on their accomplishments, were called the Dianas, after the Roman goddess of hunting. The event, in the penthouse of the Four Seasons, was hosted by Susan. Sterner was not there, either, people with knowledge of the gathering told me. 

I’m getting the feeling with Susan out as co-chair of the Women’s Leadership Forum that staffers are feeling less constrained about venting their frustration over her treatment of them over the years.

I do disagree with Spies NYU Law School Professor Stephen Gillers that this will be ammunition that will help James dissolve the NRA. What it will help do is remove Wayne and the existing leadership of the NRA. I believe the judge in the case is less inclined to actually dissolve the organization but probably has no hesitation cleaning house.

The Trace: Chipman Nomination Hanging By A Thread

When even the Bloomberg-funded The Trace says David Chipman’s nomination to head BATFE is in trouble, you know it is in trouble.

The article is an attempt to rally support for Chipman and to put pressure on Sen. Angus King (I-ME), an independent who caucuses with the Democrat. King has said privately he is a “no” on Chipman.

They are now saying Chipman’s confirmation was always “a long shot.”

The Trace is now trying to portray the Chipmans as victims of “anonymous bloggers and social media sleuths”.

Tara Chipman told USA TODAY that she retired to avoid the conflict of working under her husband’s leadership or staying on in the aftermath of a failed nomination.

She cited cases of online harassment, including conspiracy theories tied to her mother, Olivia Cajero-Bedford, a former Democratic state senator in Arizona who proposed a ban on the bump stock devices now banned nationwide.

“The negative attention was more than either of us expected, especially me as a spouse,” Tara Chipman said Wednesday. “I don’t know why anyone would want a Senate-confirmed position in government. 

“I feel kind of powerless because, of course, I want to go after these people, but I don’t want to do anything to endanger David’s nomination.”

It is hard for me to believe that anyone who had been in DC as long as Mrs. Chipman can portray herself as so naive. It is rather disingenuous to say the “negative attention was more than either of us expected.” She would have been piling on to a Republican nominee and his or her spouse if they were affiliated in any sort of way with the firearms industry.

State of Mainers need to keep the pressure on King just as those in Montana and West Virginia need to keep the pressure on Senators Tester and Manchin.

By the way, I am not an “anonymous blogger”. My real name is on every one of the posts I’ve made about David and Tara Chipman. It is not my fault that they have left such a large presence on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Ridicule Is Man’s Most Potent Weapon

Saul Alinsky‘s Rule Number 5 states, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. There is no defense. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”

Mike Spies of The Trace understands this very well and just unleased a torrent of ridicule upon Wayne LaPierre. Somehow – and I have my suspicions – he obtained the lost and unaired footage from a 2013 African safari that Wayne and Susan LaPierre took that was to have aired on Under Wild Skies. That show was hosted by Wayne’s former BFF Tony Makris and was sponsored by the NRA. I have been told that Makris and Wayne used the show to reward LaPierre loyalists with a paid-for safari in Africa.

The footage is part of an article that is running in both The Trace and The New Yorker.

The footage of LaPierre in Botswana first shows him walking through the bush dressed in loose-fitting safari attire and an NRA Sports baseball cap. He is accompanied by several professional guides and his longtime adviser, Tony Makris, a top executive at the N.R.A.’s former public-relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, and the host of “Under Wild Skies.” The heat, at times, causes LaPierre to sweat. As he walks, his wire-framed glasses slide down his nose. After a guide spots an elephant standing behind a tree, LaPierre takes aim with a rifle. As LaPierre peers through the weapon’s scope, the guide repeatedly tells him to wait before firing. LaPierre is wearing earplugs, doesn’t hear the instructions, and pulls the trigger. The elephant drops. “Did we get him?” LaPierre asks.

The guide at first says yes, but then, as he approaches the elephant, it appears that the animal is still breathing. The guide brings LaPierre within a few strides of the elephant, which lays motionless on the ground. He tells LaPierre that another bullet is needed. “I’m going to show you where to shoot,” the guide says. “Listen, hold your rifle—I’m going to tell you when. Just hold it up.” The guide pushes the rifle’s barrel skyward as other men involved in the expedition move around in the distance. “I’m going to point for you where to shoot. Just waiting for these guys.”

Needless to say, Bwana Wayne botches this and two more shots. Tony Makris is the one who has to deliver the final shot.

It appears that both Wayne and Susan are using custom Blaser rifles with engraved actions and beautiful wood that I was told a while back were billed to the NRA. I wonder what ever happened to them.

As the video makes clear, Susan is the better hunter and much better shot than Wayne. She is also much more excited by her trophy than is Wayne who looks kind of befuddled. You wonder if he isn’t just looking for a place to go and throw up.

The whole episode brings to mind that classic Hemingway short story The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. While Wayne didn’t run in the face of the elephant like Macomber did in the face of the lion, it took someone else to finish the job. Moreover, Wayne comes off as a bumbling incompetent and not the great white hunter in charge of an organization dedicated to preserving hunting and the Second Amendment.

I know this is coming from the Bloomberg supported The Trace. As I’ve said in the past, just because you don’t like the source doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate. Spies gets his information right because he knows he will be sued every which way if he doesn’t.

I hope to go to Africa in a couple of years to hunt plains game. Unlike Wayne, I will be paying for the trip myself. Also, unlike Wayne, I plan to get in a lot of shooting practice in advance especially from sticks. It appears that Wayne was not that familiar with his rifle and it shows. When you are given the chance for the hunt of a lifetime, you damn well ought to be ready.

Yeah, It’s The Trace But…

It sucks but sometimes you can get more timely and accurate information on what is happening with the NRA from Bloomberg’s The Trace than from the NRA itself.

I had noticed yesterday that Judge Phillip Journey of Kansas, a NRA Director since 2020, had secured representation before the bankruptcy court as a “creditor”. I thought it kind of strange but then there was this in today’s The Trace.

Grumblings from the NRA board?: Phillip Journey, a judge in Kansas who won his seat as an NRA director in 2020 and also served on the group’s board in the 1990s, notified the Texas court hearing the gun group’s bankruptcy case that he’s secured representation in the case. My colleague Will Van Sant notes: “I’d heard recently that Journey and a handful of other board members have concerns about actions taken by the NRA’s current leadership.” Journey has indicated he may take further action in the case, but offered no details.

It could be that Journey and some others are seeking to be a “white knight” and save the NRA leadership from itself and the ambitions of William Brewer III. I guess we will know soon enough.

In other NRA news from The Trace, I learned that the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation had turned down the NRA’s request to consolidate all their cases into US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. That includes the Dell’Aquila class action suit in Tennessee, the NRA’s suit against Letitia James in New York, and two AckMac related suits in Texas.

The panel said that despite the NRA’s assertion of factual overlap they just didn’t find enough to warrant moving the cases to Texas. Lest you think the panel was filled with anti-2A judges, Judge Roger T. Benitez whose rulings in California have been fantastic is a member of the panel.

The full decision can be found here.

Personal Insecurity And NRA Election Rigging

I have always felt that Wayne LaPierre seemed like an insecure person from the first time I saw him in person. That was at the NRA Annual Meeting in Charlotte in 2010 where he was walking the floor with a team of personal bodyguards. If there was anywhere he should be feel safe, you would think it was there.

While I didn’t realize it then, his personal insecurity goes far deeper in my opinion.

We have watched him force out Ollie North as NRA President and continue to harass him in court. Ollie, a long time board member, didn’t want to be a mere figurehead and that was a threat to Wayne.

We watched him accuse Chris Cox of treason based upon innocuous phone texts. Chris had long been seen as the heir apparent when Wayne retired. It led to Chris resigning instead.

We have watched him use subpoenas as a threat against both board members and outsiders.

We have watched him take private planes and try to have the NRA buy him a mansion in Dallas because he was afraid for his personal safety despite his bodyguards.

We have watched him surround himself with staff whose backgrounds made them utterly dependent upon him for their jobs. I’m talking about his personal assistant who is a prohibited person, his former chief of staff whom most found to be an incompetent, and even a CFO who had embezzled in his prior position.

Despite all of this, I never thought Wayne would have to resort to rigging elections to the Board of Directors to preserve his position.

I was wrong.

The podcast Gangster Capitalism has been running a series about the NRA this year. They thought they had finished Season Two when they got a tip from Dezarae Payne and Michael Schwartz. Both had been active in the NRA Members’ Councils of California. It turns out the Members Councils were not really the grass roots activists fighting for the preservation of gun rights in California. Rather they became a tool to be used by Wayne to assure the election to the board of people supportive of him and keep him in power.

The key to the scheme was Paul Payne who is employed by the NRA as the Liaison to the Executive Vice President. Payne, who is separated from Ms. Payne, was paid by the NRA $80,000 annually, had a $3,000 monthly expense account, had a leased car of his choice, and had a personal assistant who was paid $60,000 a year. Of course, he had benefits on top of this.

From The Trace which picked up the story:

Dezarae Payne told the podcast that every year LaPierre’s office gives Paul Payne the names of NRA board candidates considered allies of the longtime boss of the gun group. Payne then works through the council to lobby NRA members in California to vote for those candidates. Because such a small percentage of members take part in the annual mail ballot election for board seats, Dezarea Payne said, her husband’s electioneering has routinely been critical to victory.

But that wasn’t the whole of it.

Every year, Dezarea Payne said, her husband solicits volunteers who are flown to the convention to encourage members to back LaPierre’s favored candidate for the one-year term. These volunteers are given free concert and event tickets at the convention, and treated to a lavish dinner with LaPierre and his key aides. Payne said the trip costs the NRA $35,000 to $45,000 and has been a clandestine affair. “You have to be completely loyal to Wayne,” she said of the volunteers, who typically number up to a dozen. “You can’t question what they are doing, you have to be secretive, you can’t tell people what you are doing, who you work for.”

I saw this in action at the 2018 Annual Meeting in Dallas. Liston Matthews of the Good Hill Press Blog and I stayed at the Fairfield Inn in the Cockrell Hill section of town. There were a number of people there from the Members’ Council of California and they were talking up Herb Lankford for 76th Director. However, we were supporting Adam Kraut in his second attempt at the board. If you walked on the floor of the expo center, you saw support for Adam everywhere. Nonetheless, Mr. Lankford was elected. Not to dismiss Mr. Lankford but I wondered why a bunch of guys from California were so up on someone from Columbia, South Carolina. It didn’t make sense then but it does now.

You really need to listen to the podcast. You have to hear it in the words of Ms. Payne and Mr. Schwartz. Merely reading it does not have the same impact.

Wayne’s personal insecurity reminds me a lot of Richard Nixon in 1972. They both directly or indirectly resorted to stuff to assure their position when it wasn’t needed. There was no way that Richard Nixon was going to lose to George McGovern but Watergate still happened. As to the NRA, the bylaws make it virtually impossible to oust Wayne.

What happens now is anybody’s guess. The Board could demand Wayne’s retirement or resignation but I somehow doubt that will happen. The Attorney General of New York will probably add this to her list of things to investigate. The one thing that is sure is that just when we face a critical election for gun rights, Wayne’s attention – and the NRA’s by extension – will be elsewhere.

Remember The Guy Who Claimed Firing An AR Caused PTSD?

You may remember the story from 2016 about journalist Gersh Kuntzman who claimed firing an AR-15 caused him to have “a temporary case of PTSD”. He was with the New York Daily News at the time. It seems he had moved on in the intervening years to Newsweek where he served as an editor.

I say served as in past tense.

He was fired along with Newsweek’s national editor this past Friday.

From the New York Post:

Gersh Kuntzman — a veteran editor who had grilled the magazine’s owners at a town hall meeting about the Manhattan district attorney’s raid of Newsweek’s offices last month, reportedly over alleged ad fraud, IRS tax liens and ties to a California-based church — was fired Friday…

“Here’s a thought,” Kuntzman tweeted four days after his axing. “Next time you fire an award-winning editor who built a career over 30 years, who clocks in an hour before you and clocks out an hour after you, and has two kids who need to eat, how about looking him in the eye when you do it rather than sacking him by phone?”

Perhaps The Trace is looking for another editor. I’m sure he’d fit right in.

What Is Wrong With This Statement?

I read a story this morning from the local NBC station in San Francisco. It detailed how the prohibitive gun laws in California and especially San Francisco made trafficking in stolen and/or illegal guns a very lucrative business. That comes as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog or has any knowledge of the Prohibition Era.

The story contained this gem. Let’s dissect it to see what’s wrong with it.

Roger contacted NBC Bay Area following a joint investigation with the non-profit journalism organization The Trace, which found more than 20,000 guns across the country that were previously reported stolen were later recovered by police in connection to crimes.

Stolen guns used in crime? That makes sense as guns are stolen to be sold or traded to other criminals who are probably already prohibited persons. Guns are a tool of the trade for armed robbers and home invaders and they will do what is necessary to obtain them.

Roger? Nope that was just the fake name used by the criminal for the story. He’s now in a witness protection program.

The non-profit journalism organization The Trace? Ah, there’s the problem with the statement. While its tax status is irrelevant, calling The Trace a “journalism organization” is one hell of a whopper.  It is the Bloomberg-funded media propaganda arm that masquerades as journalism. Funding for it also came from the Joyce Foundation and Seattle anti-gun billionaire Nick Hanauer. Following the money always will lead you to the truth.