NRA in Disarray
August 13, 2019

When it emerged last week that the National Rifle Association and its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, had moved to buy NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and his wife, Susan, a $6 million mansion in suburban Dallas last year, the NRA insisted that "not a cent of NRA money was ultimately spent" on the abortive real estate purchase.

On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it obtained a copy of a $70,000 check the NRA sent in May 2018 to WBB Investments LLC, a Delaware entity created a week previously. The money was intended as earnest money toward an offer on the 10,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, nine-bath French country–style estate in a gated golf club community, a person familiar with the transaction told the Journal. New York's attorney general is investigating the proposed purchase as part of a larger review of the NRA's nonprofit status.

"The NRA made a nominal payment to help facilitate the process for a real estate transaction that was supposedly being undertaken by Ackerman McQueen following the Parkland tragedy," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Journal. The check was reportedly returned after the deal fell apart. Ackerman McQueen said it's "patently false" that anyone other than LaPierre was driving the transaction.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that LaPierre wanted the NRA to buy him the property because "he was worried about being targeted and needed a more secure place to live" after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. LaPierre requested that WWB Investments be created to facilitate the purchase, the Post reported, and the LaPierres "were intensely involved in the selection of the property." Emails described to the Post show that Susan LaPierre was concerned there wasn't enough closet space in the men's master bedroom and bathroom.

ProPublica and The Trace published documents last week showing that NRA accountants reviewing the books flagged the $70,000 payment as a top concern and violation of the organization's "accounts payable procedures." Nonprofit lawyer Elizabeth Kingsley told the Journal that "if there's a check from the NRA to an LLC, that doesn't seem consistent with a story that Ackerman was going to pay for it." Peter Weber

August 7, 2019

The National Rifle Association planned to buy a roughly $6 million mansion in the Dallas area last year for use by CEO Wayne LaPierre, with help from the NRA's former longtime advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, multiple people tell The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. The NRA and Ackerman McQueen, locked in a bitter legal fight, don't dispute that discussions took place to buy the mansion, but in competing statements Tuesday night, they offered sharply different accounts of who originated the idea, its purpose, and why the deal fell apart.

Ackerman McQueen said LaPierre asked the firm for help buying the mansion, it refused, and "actions in this regard led to Ackerman McQueen's loss of faith in Mr. LaPierre's decision-making." An attorney for the NRA, William Brewer III — brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen — said the ad firm broached the purchase as a real estate investment, and it "was vetoed by the NRA after its full terms — including Ackerman's intent to spend NRA money — became known to Wayne LaPierre." Ackerman McQueen responded that the assertion it drove the mansion deal is "patently false" and "the truth is that Mr. LaPierre decided to proactively propose his plan to leave his current residence and purchase a new residence," he "sought the involvement of Ackerman McQueen," and "Ackerman McQueen refused to proceed with this transaction."

The records about the failed deal are being scrutinized by the New York's attorney general's office as part of its review of the NRA's tax-exempt status.

The NRA paid LaPierre $1.44 million last year, and leaked documents show that the NRA, via Ackerman McQueen, paid $542,000 million for private jet trips for LaPierre, designer suits, and rent for a summer intern's apartments. Also, at least 18 of the NRA's 72 board members reportedly received money from the group over the past three years, a period of time in which the NRA posted losses, cut programs, and froze employee benefits. Peter Weber

June 26, 2019

The National Rifle Association has officially severed ties with its estranged longtime advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, and shut down production at NRATV, its live broadcast media arm, The New York Times reports. It is not a friendly divorce.

The NRA told Ackerman CEO Revan McQueen in a note Tuesday night that it "regrets that a longstanding, formerly productive relationship comes to an end in this fashion," the Times reports. Ackerman responded that it's "not surprised that the NRA is unwilling to honor its agreement to end our contract and our long-standing relationship in an orderly and amicable manner," and it "will continue to fight against the NRA's repeated violations of its agreement with our company with every legal remedy available to us."

The NRA and Ackerman have been sparring since last summer, when the NRA started an audit of its outside contractors, and it broke into the open in April, when NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre accused the organization's president, Oliver North, of trying to extort him into resigning with the threat of releasing "a devastating account of our financial status." Oliver stepped down in April, and last week the NRA placed its chief lobbyist Christopher Cox, on administrative leave, accusing him of conspiring with North and Ackerman to oust LaPierre. Cox, the NRA's second-highest officer, was widely seen as a likely successor to LaPierre.

Ackerman produced NRATV, and the NRA did not prohibit the broadcast of previous content but is on-air personalities, notably Dana Loesch, will no longer serve as a public face of the organization. "Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment," LaPierre wrote in a message to members, the Times reports. "We are no longer airing 'live TV' programming." Peter Weber

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