NRA sues OKC advertising agency Ackerman McQueen
The National Rifle Association is suing its longtime advertising and marketing representatives at Oklahoma City-based Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of withholding billing information and breaching their contract.
Ackerman McQueen has worked with the NRA for 38 years and court filings reveal annual billings in recent years have topped $40 million as operations expanded to include NRATV featuring personalities Dana Loesch and Oliver North.
Ackerman McQueen, in a statement issued late Monday, denied the claims in the lawsuit.
“Ackerman McQueen has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years,” the firm stated Monday. “The NRA’s action is frivolous, inaccurate and intended to cause harm to the reputation of our company and the future of that 38-year relationship. … Much like we have done for the NRA and the Second Amendment over the past 38 years, we too will defend our position and performance aggressively.”
A contention in the lawsuit includes alleged refusals by Ackerman McQueen to provide a copy of its contract with North, a former official with the Reagan White House who became famous as a result of the Iran-Contra hearings.
Ackerman McQueen, meanwhile, denies the allegations and further questions the NRA hiring outside counsel led by William Brewer — brother-in-law of the current Ackerman McQueen CEO Revan McQueen.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Alexandria, Virginia, the NRA alleged Ackerman McQueen and its public relations subsidiary Mercury Group unlawfully refused to turn over business records, including budgets and contracts charging the NRA for services. The nonprofit organization argued that it has a legal right to view these documents under the Records-Examination Clause of its contract with Ackerman McQueen.
The relationship between the two entities became contentious as the organization sought to take a closer look at Ackerman McQueen’s activities and spending on NRA advertising and public relations. The NRA, which has reported financial losses the past couple of years and questions of whether it can continue, developed concerns Ackerman McQueen’s expenses needed more oversight.
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North was named to the largely ceremonial position of president of the NRA last May, and according to NRA attorneys, it was at that same time that Ackerman McQueen negotiated a contract with North to host a documentary series for NRATV.
The NRA asserts their requests to review the Ackerman McQueen contract with North were repeatedly refused and the gun lobby’s attorneys were only given a “brief” live review of the paperwork.
“Ackerman McQueen is interfering with the NRA’s ability to steward its funds in pursuit of its public mission,” the lawsuit alleges. “Moreover, Ackerman McQueen’s baseless refusal to permit a fulsome review of the North contract threatens to impede the NRA’s corporate governance process.”
In its statement Monday, Ackerman McQueen responded the NRA was given the requested contract last week before the lawsuit was filed. The company called the NRA allegation about access to the North contract a “flagrant misrepresentation,” that along with “other false claims, serve as the foundation of malicious intent exemplified by this lawsuit.”
Ackerman McQueen’s statement also alleges its legal counsel informed the NRA “months ago” that “Brewer himself has an irreconcilable conflict of interest. Mr. Brewer is the son-in-law of Angus McQueen and brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen’s CEO, Revan McQueen.
“Mr. Brewer has demonstrated, in words and deeds, his animus for Ackerman McQueen and these family members and that animus pervades the Brewer firm’s dealings with Ackerman McQueen, whether dealing directly with Ackerman McQueen or through other members of his firm.”
The NRA filing dismisses allegations about its attorneys calling it a strategy of “attack the messenger.”
Ackerman McQueen is the city’s oldest advertising, marketing and media company and has offices in Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Colorado Springs, Colorado, with 125 of its 190 employees based in Oklahoma City.
The lawsuit threatens what was described by AdAge in 2013 as “one of the longest-running collaborations in advertising history” dating back 38 years.
Historically, other clients have included the Oklahoma State Fair board, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, OGE Energy Corp., United Way of Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Chickasaw Nation.
No client, however, matches the history and size of the NRA.
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›
Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›