The NRA is facing a new legal challenger: the advertising firm it’s worked with for 30 years. On Thursday morning, Ackerman McQueen—which has been handling public relations and advertising for the gun rights group for over three decades—filed a $50 million counterclaim against the NRA in Virginia Circuit Court.
In this legal fight, the NRA took the first shot. Last month, the group sued Ackerman McQueen demanding documents related to its work for the NRA. Ackerman McQueen runs the often-controversial NRATV programming, as well as other public relations work. The NRA claimed that the firm wouldn’t open its books and insinuated it had engaged in problematic business practices. Yesterday, the NRA filed a second lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen—first reported by The Daily Beast—alleging that the firm leaked confidential information to reporters and tried to organize a coup against the association’s CEO.
Now, Ackerman McQueen is taking its turn. In the counterclaim, the firm alleges that it has already given the NRA sufficient access to financial information regarding its work, including by sharing recent data analytics for NRATV and letting auditors spend nine days going through its books in February. “AMc [Ackerman McQueen] has complied with every authorized demand for examination of its documents,” the suit reads.
In a statement, an attorney for the NRA said the lawsuit was “without merit” and a “misguided attempt to deflect attention from Ackerman McQueen’s numerous failures to comply with its obligations.”
“Ackerman’s claims against the NRA emerged after, and only after, the NRA sought to compel the agency to provide documents and billing records relating to its services,” the attorney, William A. Brewer III, said.
He added, “The NRA makes no apologies for holding Ackerman McQueen and all its vendors to a high standard—in the interest of its mission and the members it serves. The NRA remains undeterred in its efforts to follow best practices and hold vendors accountable: no exceptions.”
Ackerman McQueen’s counterclaim blames the NRA for a coup against Oliver North.
It says the NRA’s outside counsel, Bill Brewer, “provided misleading information to the New York Times” about North’s work for the firm. “The article misrepresented the facts and disparaged AMc, reads the lawsuit, noting that the story quoted Brewer and alleging that he misled the paper to hurt the firm’s relationship with the NRA.
The firm also alleges that the NRA’s legal actions against it are just an excuse to terminate their contract for cause—and get out of paying “a very substantial amount of money in the form of severance and cancellation fees....”
The end of that sentence is redacted, as is much of the claim, purportedly because it discusses confidential information.
The litigation also says the NRA abused the legal system by going after North just before the gun group’s annual meeting—an effort to damage his reputation and distract NRA members from other problems.
It notes that days before the meeting, the NRA updated its first lawsuit against the firm with information about North’s work for the firm on NRATV. At the meeting, the complaint notes, a public fight broke out between North and LaPierre.
“AMc was dragged into the dispute based on the NRA’s public disclosure of the North-AMc Contract,” the suit says.
The NRA’s decision to update its first lawsuit with new information about North “was highly effective in turning the spotlight away from the NRA’s troubles and setting up Lt. Col. North and AMc to be the scapegoat in the national news,” the complaint alleges.
The new suit concludes by arguing that the NRA’s lawsuits against the firm were part of an effort to damage the firm’s reputation and hand over its NRA work to Brewer—without having to pay a required severance payment.