NRA Settles Suits with Ackerman McQueen for $12 Million

NRA Settles Suits with Ackerman McQueen for $12 Million, iStock-1138499981
NRA Settles Suits with Ackerman McQueen for $12 Million, iStock-1138499981

As the April 15th Members’ Meeting in Indianapolis approaches, new revelations are emerging out of the NY lawsuit against the Association and its top executives. The latest big reveal is that the NRA settled a collection of lawsuits between NRA and their long-time PR firm Ackerman McQueen for $12 million! This after painting Ack-Mac as the story’s villain for 3 years, claiming that the PR firm had been leading a coup attempt against Wayne LaPierre and current NRA “leadership.” This “coup attempt” story directly resulted in NRA President Oliver North walking away the day before the Annual Meeting of Members in Indianapolis in 2019, followed by the ouster of Chris Cox, the popular Executive Director of NRA-ILA, along with his chief deputy and a bevy of outside attorneys who were working on Second Amendment cases on NRA’s behalf.

The settlement was sealed so that even NRA Directors were told they could not know the details. Several reported that they had received hints from people in the know suggesting Ackerman McQueen had been forced to pay the NRA in the settlement, but that clearly wasn’t true. The facts of the settlement fell out into the public domain when attorneys for former Treasurer Wilson “Woody” Philips, during an attempt to conceal other information from public disclosure, inadvertently entered the Ack-Mac settlement as an attachment in a public record filing. Keep in mind that the $12 million settlement doesn’t include over three years of legal fees paid to the Brewer law firm to litigate the multiple suits on NRA’s behalf. We still don’t know what the total cost of the losing litigation really was.

Other recent revelations include more details on the backdoor expense account scheme in which some NRA executives and officers were issued credit cards by Ackerman McQueen, while others had Ack-Mac personnel charge things on their behalf. The charges on these cards were funneled back to NRA on generic invoices without itemized expenditures. The invoices were simply paid on Wayne LaPierre’s orders. Charges on the cards included first-class travel, luxury accommodations, and dining expenses that ran in the tens of thousands of dollars for a single weekend or week-long trip – and there were a lot of trips. Also included were things like thousands of dollars for hair and makeup expenses for Susan LaPierre and nearly $2 million in expenses for Ack-Mac employees doing NRA work between 2016 and 2018.

All of this is detailed in a report by a forensic accountant who specializes in nonprofit finances. The report is over 300 pages long and heavily footnoted. The entire report and many other court documents and detailed financial information are available here.

While many of the highlighted expenses are completely outrageous and unjustifiable, some, even though they appear excessive, are probably substantially justified business expenses. It’s not at all uncommon for an organization like the NRA to wine and dine potential big donors in an effort to pry open their checkbooks. I don’t like the practice, and I think if I were a gozillionaire thinking about giving a couple of million to a nonprofit, I’d not want to see them wasting money trying to woo me, but instead would want to see them responsibly using the money they’re getting. I also don’t think private jets, first-class airfare, limousine service, or Presidential Suite accommodations for the fundraiser are at all reasonable.

I have no doubt that, if challenged on the information in this report, NRA Board members will want to point to the more justifiable expenses and ignore the most egregious ones. That’s a game they’ve been playing from the beginning of this mess, finding the nuggets of respectability, excusability, and doubt in the massive pile of putrid manure and trying to use those as proof that the rest of the pile doesn’t stink.

Those arguments completely fall apart though, when you consider that the backdoor expense billing through Ack-Mac was on top of employees regular, generous expense accounts, and appears to have been designed specifically with the intent of bypassing internal controls and reporting on spending.

If you personally know any member of the NRA Board of Directors or have their contact information, challenge them to explain this information. And don’t let them get away with BS’ing their way around the questions. Personal attacks against those of us reporting on these issues, or personal assurances that everything’s really okay, are not explanations. These are serious, well-documented allegations. In fact, many, if not most, of the allegations have been conceded as true by LaPierre and NRA in legal filings, even though they initially claimed they were false. The only defense from NRA “leaders” appears to be claims that, either these were errors that have subsequently been corrected, or there were extenuating circumstances that justified the actions.

What utter nonsense!

We’ve lost about one-third of our Annual Members at this point, and revenue has been cut in half in just four years. Someone needs to answer for those failures. Suggesting that the people who created the mess are the only ones who can clean it up is ridiculous. Claims that there’s no one who could effectively take over from LaPierre are equally ridiculous. Then there’s Charles Cotton, the man who, as Chair of the Audit Committee, completely failed in his job of keeping NRA’s financial and personnel matters above reproach and who, as President, Chairman of the Special Litigation Committee, and of the Executive Compensation Committee, has been one of Wayne LaPierre’s most ardent defenders, while keeping LaPierre’s salary well above a million dollars per year, and keeping the Board in the dark about minor things like declaring bankruptcy. Astonishingly, the Board is now preparing to change the Association’s Bylaws, just to allow Cotton to serve a third term as President… Sheer lunacy.

The NRA is imploding. It’s not the fault of NY AG Letitia James, the investigative reporters of Bloomberg’s anti-rights propaganda mill, or concerned NRA members like me. It’s the fault of corrupt “leaders” and their spineless enablers on the Board of Directors who have covered for those corrupt “leaders” and retained them in positions of power.

In 2019, when these accusations first burst out into public light, there was a resolution put forward at the Members’ Meeting calling for a vote of No Confidence in LaPierre, Cotton, the Executive Committee, and the Audit Committee. Directors leapt to their feet to derail that resolution and keep the members from being able to vote on it. Two days later, in a long and closed Board meeting, the Board of Directors reelected Wayne LaPierre as Executive Vice President, throwing away their best opportunity to right the ship. Instead of fixing the problems, they voted for the status quo and the ultimate destruction of the Association. Similar resolutions of No Confidence have been submitted at each subsequent Members’ Meeting, and each has been shut down by NRA “leaders.”

The Members Meeting in Indianapolis is likely to be the last chance members will have to express their anger and frustration to the Association’s “leaders” and their fellow members. I fully expect the Association to be in receivership before this time next year, and it will take decades for the rights movement to recover. There is no easy fix for this situation, but the first step is to stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure on the people in charge.