The National Rifle Association accused Ackerman McQueen Inc., its longtime advertising firm, of orchestrating a failed executive coup at the gun-rights group and leaking details about lavish expenses, as part of an alleged attempt to “tarnish and ultimately destroy the public image of the NRA and its senior leadership,” reports the Wall Street Journal. The charges in a lawsuit seeking $40 million in damages were the latest salvo in a battle between the NRA and the ad firm.
Last month, the NRA sued Ackerman, claiming the agency had failed to provide records justifying its bills. Ackerman called that suit frivolous and inaccurate. The rancor between the NRA and Ackerman, a key partner of the gun-rights group for more than 30 years, caused strife at the NRA’s annual meeting last month. Then-president Oliver North resigned after he called for the board to investigate claims that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre charged more than $500,000 in wardrobe and travel expenses to the ad firm. LaPierre and his allies said the expenses were appropriate and that North was trying to extort the CEO into resigning. The NRA claimed that Ackerman after the meeting began to deliver on its “extortion threats” and “cynically leaked selected portions of confidential business records.” Ackerman called the new lawsuit “another reckless attempt to scapegoat Ackerman McQueen for the NRA’s own breakdown in governance, compliance and leadership.” Key leaders of the NRA board, including its current president and nine past presidents, sent a letter to all NRA members Wednesday reiterating their support for LaPierre.