nra heaquarters hq
Courtesy NRA
nra sues ackerman mcqueen
Courtesy NRA

Ackerman McQueen has been the National Rifle Association’s marketing firm for over 30 years. Among other services, Ackerman produces NRATV for the NRA. All of those personalities you see in their videos such as Dana Loesch and Colion Noir work for Ackerman, not the NRA directly.

As has been widely reported, the NRA’s finances have been strained in recent years in part due to attacks from states such as New York. And now, apparently as part of an internal struggle going on within NRA HQ over Ackerman’s significant role and the huge amounts the NRA pays for their services, the long-time relationship is very much in question.

As the Wall Street Journal (paywall) reports . . .

The National Rifle Association filed a lawsuit accusing its longtime advertising agency Ackerman McQueen Inc. of refusing to comply with demands to justify its billings, an extraordinary public break with the gun-rights group’s largest outside partner.

The lawsuit, filed late Friday, comes amid an unusual battle unfolding behind the scenes at the NRA’s 76-member board, which some say pits a small group of pro-Ackerman McQueen directors against other board members and an outside NRA attorney.

The dispute in part is about how the NRA, with an annual budget of more than $300 million, is spending money during a period when its finances have been tight. The NRA ran at a deficit in its two most recently reported years.

As the WSJ notes, Ackerman is the NRA’s largest vendor, billing the gun rights org over $42 million in 2017. As for Ackerman’s side of the story . . .

The lawsuit is “frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company,” Ackerman McQueen said in a statement. “We will defend our position and performance aggressively and look forward to continuing to serve the NRA’s membership.”

That seems…questionable. If you’re suing a company that refuses to reconcile its billings, how long will you continue to use their services?

In the lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Alexandria, Va., the NRA said Ackerman McQueen was obliged to provide access to records underlying its bills. But since the middle of 2018, it said the NRA’s requests for such documents had been met with partial compliance or “rebuffed or baldly ignored…This situation cannot continue.” …

The NRA said in the lawsuit it had sought information on how well NRATV was faring, but claimed Ackerman McQueen refused to provide the NRA with certain requested data in writing, such as unique visitors, “that enable the NRA [to] analyze the return on its investment in NRATV.”

But the story is, well, complicated.

In a Shakespearean twist, the outside NRA lawyer spearheading the lawsuit, (William A.) Brewer, is related to Ackerman McQueen’s two top officials, who are his brother-in-law and father-in-law.

Ackerman McQueen said it told the NRA three months ago that the family relationship meant that Mr. Brewer had an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” and that he had “demonstrated, in words and deeds, his animus” for the company and those family members.

There is considerable sniping going on within the NRA board, with members taking pro- and anti-Ackerman sides, with some who support Ackerman questioning Brewer’s fees. His firm is also handling the high profile suit against the state of New York and the gangster-style moves they’ve made to persuade financial firms to drop the NRA.

Watch this space.

 

 

74 COMMENTS

  1. How can a business construct a budget if they don’t know why they are being charged what? Stockholders of a commercial business demand it.

    • There seems to be more than a little confusion in that story. For instance, the NRA says they want the advertising to “justify it’s billing”. But then specifically says it is about the performance metrics around NRATV:

      “The NRA said in the lawsuit it had sought information on how well NRATV was faring, but claimed Ackerman McQueen refused to provide the NRA with certain requested data in writing, such as unique visitors, “that enable the NRA [to] analyze the return on its investment in NRATV.”

      That’s not an inquiry on how the advertising company spent their money, but data on viewership. It could be that, considering the nature of the modern web itself, the advertising company is simply not able to provide a complete and accurate account of viewership. Or they could just be jerks to their client. Considering the payday they are getting from that client, that doesn’t make much sense.

      I know that, through looking at the metrics of this website on the backend, it’s a best guest on how many eyeballs are really looking at each story, much less the ads on them.

      • A lot of these types of companies like to play with the metrics to make themselves look good to get a bunch of cash when they should be out of business.

        A lot of leftist “news” websites have done this very well and got a lot of money for nothing. Then the workers wonder why they are out of a job…

    • Or to put it simply, Ackerman makes a LOT of money off the NRA and the NRA want’s to know if they worth it. Ackerman will not provide the information if they are or not.

      “the advertising company is simply not able to provide a complete and accurate account of viewership. Or they could just be jerks to their client”

      Or a third possibility is that the viewing numbers would make the NRA second guess what they are spending.

      • But they already are. Not providing the data would be worse than providing negative data, as we can see from the suit.
        It’s certainly true that Ackerman makes a lot of money off the NRA. It’s also true that, as their advertising arm, the NRA makes a whole lot of money off of Ackerman.

    • For that you have to look into the history of NRA’s relationship with Ack-Maq. The 1997 revolt, where Wayne LaPierre Laval was almost (but sadly not) removed from power over the relationship is a good place to start.

  2. “…His firm is also handling the high profile suit against the state of New York…”

    Is this the best time to go to war with the lawyers handling the *critical* ‘NY Pistol’ SCOTUS case??

    • Not that case. Brewer is handling the suit against the state of New York for pressuring firms to stop doing business with the NRA. The NYSRPA v Vith of New York is a different suit.

      • I stand corrected ,so many New Yorkistan cases to keep track of seeing as how they are such denizens of the rights of their subjects.

        • Not much to wonder at with why you may see a lot of NY plates at gun stores/shows for your state as well as NH and ME. Even a few of our gun stores are looking to hop the border.

    • Not a new fight the struggle to return the NRA to it’s members has been going on for the last thirty years or so.

    • So the NRA should not taken action to right an incorrect and wrongful use of its resources? Of course they should. And the anti-NRA crowd will continue to snipe from their safe perches.

  3. It’s more than Damn time to return the NRA to it’s members and the Ack Mac partners such as Wayne and Chris and directors should not let the door hit them as they depart the NRA for good.

    • If hadn’t been for Wayne’s “Good guy with a gun” comment we would have been saddled with “assault weapon” prohibition and quite possibly gun confiscation. He saved our collective asses with that one comment. Not many people can do that. He can.

      • Only because –for like the first time ever– he signaled with those comments that *this time* his NRA wouldn’t be rolling over. Both before & since he’s had no problems rolling on gun owners when there was GOP backing.

        Thank the Democrats for having the White House, since that’s the real reason why the GOP, and by extension the NRA, were prepared to fight new gun control proposals. The instant the GOP has the White House and promotes gun control & massive confiscation efforts…LaPierre/NRA is right there along with them.

      • That reminds me of another Wayneism “Stand and Fight” when in reality its “Kneel and Capitulate” “Go Ahead Ban Bump Stocks”,the NRA won’t fight it,”Red Flags”,no problem.
        As long as my wallet grows and my retirement fund increases,it’s not a problem, that Wayne La Pierre..

  4. Sounds like they have in the past spent a little wild and now that money is tight it is hard to get a proper accounting of what and why for charges. They were likely getting gouged before with nobody caring.

  5. Good maybe we’ll finally get some change at the NRA we’ve long since needed. Let’s start with a new Executive VP who is not as old as the NRA for one.

    • At least one who’s first duty is to the protection of the 2 nd. amendment for it’s members and not his and Ack Macs bottom line financially.

  6. “..the NRA says they want the advertising to “justify it’s billing”. But then specifically says it is about the performance metrics around NRATV:…”

    There is a bit of difference between identifying where money is spent, and justifying the expense; identity of expenditure does not “justify” the expense. As such, simply stating that an expense was paid to MegaCorp for “stuff” is identifying the expenditure. “Why did you authorize that expense, and what did we (the client) gain (in detail)?” is the justification.

  7. Shakespeare was right, (look it up), the only winners in any legal action are the lawyers. Everybody else is either a survivor or collateral damage. -30-

    • From personal experience over the last few months, a lawyer is proving to be the best friend I currently have. So far, he has gotten an insurance company to cough up over 120,000 bucks when their insured driver hit me on my bike, crushing my ankle.

      For the time being, lawyers are OK in my book. That may change in the future.

      When you need one, YOU NEED ONE…

  8. Now let’s sue Wayne for hiring a newly formed Ack-Mac subsidiary when the board ordered the firing of Ack-Mac…(oh, forget it, the statue of limitations on that move expired years ago)

    • Somebody has to pad Wayne and Chris’s retirement accounts and namely the members and 2 nd. amendment suffer for it.

  9. The NRA could do with a cleanse, getting rid of the squishy assholes and weirdos that aren’t helping, or actively hindering the restoration of our rights. Voting hasn’t done shit to clear out the flotsam and jetsam hanging around that building.

    • Every institution has a strong propensity to pursue some insider’s agenda at the expense of the agenda of the general membership. If you think long and hard looking for exceptions to this rule you will gradually come to realize the truth of the generalization.

      The NRA has been around for a remarkably long time; even a long time since the 1977 Cincinnati revolution. Plenty of time for insider managers and directors to become deeply entrenched. Plenty of time for these insiders to cultivate agenda(s) that they work hard to preserve.

      While these insider-agendas aren’t necessarily wrong, they are resistant to inspection and debate. And, that’s a problem. Members, and non-member critics, have lots of beefs with NRA. I strongly suspect that some of these beefs are NOT well-thought-out. I.e., what the insiders did was in the members’ best long-run interest. While granting this benefit of the doubt, NRA is – after all – a MEMBERSHIP organization. It must serve the MEMBERS’ purposes whether the members are wise or foolish.

      Accordingly, it’s well worth our respectful interest to watch this lawsuit and see where the chips fall. I’d like to see a much more active member participation in annual elections for directors. Just 6% of eligible members bother to vote.

      I’d like to see a voting system that tends to serve the evolving interest of members. E.g., members subscribing to “interest groups” (hunting, marksmanship, rights, lobbying, etc.) and directors in proportion to subscribing members. (E.g., shouldn’t hunters or marksmen, etc., populate the board in proportion to members with those interests?) And, those directors ought to be voted on by members who subscribe to the corresponding interest-group.

      NRA isn’t going to evolve toward a membership-oriented agenda until both: members insist on influencing the agenda; and, the members pry control from the cold dead hands of entrenched insiders.

      • MarkPA: That’s one of the most insightful comments ever posted on this fine blog. Very helpful. Thank you.

  10. Looks like lots of people and companies are riding the member paid gravy train.

    Who will Ack-Mac be replaced by ? More friends of Wayne ?

    If your ‘ gun rights ‘ group is more interested in pushing its ” Wine Club ” selections , it just might be out of touch and off mission.

    • I don’t know if they are “friends” of LaPierre so much as ‘his people.’ Basically, Ackerman McQueen staged a hostile takeover of the NRA several decades ago, with Wayne at the forefront, designed to remove irritants like Knox that were casting undesired light onto the many soft-graft schemes they wanted to use to loot the organization.

  11. Yea, what’s with the wine club? What’s next, a book club? I would go for a shoot/getaway vacation deal in the Ozarks, Rockies, UP Michigan, tho.

    • She’s one to add to the list of thanks for your service,now don’t let the door hit you in the azz on your way out.

  12. Huh. So Lapierre’s Ackerman buddies have finally looted about as much from the NRA as they can, without causing even the sycophant BOD members they installed for protection to question the relationship.

    I always wondered whether those parasites would flee or be driven off before the host finally died.

    Don’t forget; this firm is the guys who mounted the campaign against Neil Knox’s “hardliner” wing of the NRA, once he started asking around about how responsibly LaPierre’s people were spending the org’s money and what sort of direction they were taking the org’s efforts (cozying up to the GOP for lobbying influence vs. focusing on grass roots gun-rights activism)

  13. The NRA has been suffering “mission creep” for a long time. LaPierre has fallen in love with his 1st Class airline tickets, 5-Star hotel rooms, his personal security detail, and his 7-figure income, to the detriment of the membership. Obama provided a huge expansion in the membership roles which, in turn, provided more money for Wayne & Co. to spend. Now that Trump is in office, the sense of urgency has waned and money is getting tight. BUT, Wayne & Co. don’t want to tighten their belts.

    Ack-Mac was LaPierre’s idea. Until then, the NRA had been doing a creible job with their in-house marketing people. Read ‘Ricochet’ by Richard Feldman for the inside story.

  14. We need staunch 2A absolutists to run the NRA.

    OFWGs that would run the NRA because they are dedicated to the cause and are retired already (don’t need an income) would be a good choice.

  15. I don’t know the gentleman personally, but Mr. LaPierre’s leadership and persona feel a lot like David Miscavige’s at the Church of Scientology. Unsettling…

  16. Now I know why the NRA is always asking for money. The NRA has multiple blood sucking leeches attached to it.

  17. All NRA’s advertising should be outward facing, that is, directed at non NRA members. Promote the organization, dispel the crap the anti-gunners put out. Focus on the good stuff the NRA does for everyone, not just members. NRATV is a complete waste. I’ve been in IT for more than 40 years and most long-times would rather have pink-eye than watch one more internet video. It’s all and only “Look at meeeee, I’m on teeveeeee (No, you aren’t)

    This will infuriate some, but here it is: I have no use for Dana Loesch and I don’t think her angry persona helps NRA in any way, shape or form.

    • NRATV feels like watching FOX news. I try to stay away from any of their videos just like I stay away from FOX. Maybe if I was 2-3 times older it would be a perfect fit. It appears they spend their time making older white men happy, but those men are already NRA members.

      The NRA seems like a money laundering scheme.

  18. The NRA Board is beginning to resemble Congress. Largely a room full of self promoting, self serving egos who have lost sight of why they were given the privilege of their positions.
    A return to core values and founding principles wouldn’t be a bad thing.
    Showing Wayne the door wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  19. A whole lot of don’t kno shit authorities spewing in this thread. Don’t like the NRA, then go start a program for yourself and STFY.

    ALL ad agencies are self-serving lying BS artists selling NOTHING of value. ANYONE spending $ on internet cliks is a fool. Damn little print and or TV ad $ even in the “good old days” actually resulted in am quantifiable net increase in profitability. ALL was and is a scam.

  20. Negotiating Rights Away, billions wasted, no constitutional carry, no hearing protection act, no nfa/atf reforms, bumpstocks banned by decree, red flag laws supported, 34,68,94, all bans on rights supported by the nra, why exactly am I expected to sing the praises of an organization that has done little to nothing for me?

  21. Well, given the results the NRA has had, they should be looking at the quality of their PR n advertising services.

    You gotta read the charter to fivurenout they’re a membership-based issue-advocacy organization.

  22. Stopped reading at “the NRA’s finances have been strained in recent years” LOL does this mean Wayne wont be getting the gold accented fixtures on his new Gulfstream? Will the cutbacks be so drastic they will only email call and send mailers 50x a month instead of 100?

    This encroachment of finances will not stand! Get Chuck Norris on the phone dammit!

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