Sunday, April 21, 2019

Great Twitter Thread On April 19th


I didn't get to post this on April 19th as I was helping take care of my granddaughters while their parents were away. If you turn your head on a one year old who has learned to crawl, they are into everything!

April 19th was the 244th anniversary of the "shot heard 'round the world" or the Battle of Lexington and Concord. We should never forget that the battle began when authorities tried to confiscate firearms from men who decided they'd rather be citizens than subjects.

Anyway, this Twitter thread is brilliant. I'll only excerpt a part of it but I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.










NRA Annual Meeting - Where Can You Carry?


The Indy Star published an article on Friday detailing where you can and can't carry at the NRA Annual Meeting which starts on Friday. The biggest event you cannot carry is at the NRA Leadership Forum on Friday. It's not because Wayne and Company is scared but because the Secret Service forbids any weapons in any place where the President will be speaking or appearing. Given that both President Donald Trump and VP Mike Pence will be speaking at the event, I'm sure it goes double.

What is prohibited instead the Leadership Forum?

Here's a complete list of items that won't be allowed inside the stadium when Trump speaks:
  • Aerosols
  • Ammunition
  • Backpacks
  • Bags larger than 18"x13"x7"
  • Drones and other unmanned aircraft systems
  • Firearms
  • Glass, thermal, or metal containers
  • Gun parts, holsters, magazines, etc.
  • Knives
  • Laser pointers
  • Mace/pepper spray
  • Selfie sticks
  • Signs
  • Toy guns
  • Umbrellas
  • Weapons of any kind
  • Any other item determine to be potential safety hazards 
However,  a group called Knife Rights will provide complimentary storage for knives and other prohibited items at the North Gate entrance.
If you are attending the Leadership Forum, be prepared to get in line early if last year was any indication. I remember a long line snaking through the Dallas Convention Center as people had to go through the Secret Service checkpoint to be admitted.


Firearms will also not be allowed at the Alan Jackson concert to be held at the Lucas Oil Stadium.

 However, you will be able to carry in the convention hall provided you have a valid carry permit. Carrying outside the home requires a permit under Indiana law according to the article.

For the most up-to-date information on carry laws in Indiana, go to www.handgunlaw.us





UPDATE: I checked with a friend in Indy. She said you can carry in establishments that serve alcohol. Unlike in North Carolina, Indiana allows you to consume alcoholic beverages while carrying. However, public intoxication is illegal so moderation is the key. Personally, and this is just me, I don't carry when I plan to consume alcohol.

More From The New Yorker


On my way home this afternoon from visiting my granddaughters, I chanced across The New Yorker Radio Hour. The lead story was on the NRA and Mike Spies article that ran this past week. It goes over much of what was written in the article but it also had excerpts from Spies's interview with Aaron Davis who formerly worked in the NRA's major gifts fundraising unit.

Bearing in mind that any interview that is broadcast is made up of excerpts and that those excerpts are chosen to make a point or enhance the story, the interview with Davis seems to illustrate how the aims of Ackerman McQueen and the aims of preserving and protecting the Second Amendment are at odds. Davis notes that many of those he worked with at Ack-Mac were, as he put it, "New York or Austin types" who were PR professionals first, foremost, and always. Unlike Davis, they were not believers in the NRA or the Second Amendment.

The other thing this audio broadcast illustrated is that Spies' reporting depended on a lot of inside information from presumably disgruntled staff at the NRA including handwritten memos and other documents. I am not disappointed in the staff for spilling the beans. Rather, I'm disappointed that it took an article from an outsider with an anti-NRA agenda to illustrate the major internal problems that can and may put the organization itself at risk. By extension, it also puts the battle for the Second Amendment and gun rights at risk. Bloomberg himself couldn't have done more damage than those tasked with supposedly advancing gun rights have done through their own avarice and self-dealing.

The New Yorker Radio Hour broadcasts on many public radio stations. Rather than have you have to search for a rebroadcast of it, I have embedded it here. The NRA portion of the episode runs approximately 20 minutes.




Dont Shoot The Messenger


In the last couple of days since the lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen I've spoken to a former lobbyist for the NRA and two serving NRA Board Members. The conversations were off the record and not for attribution. Then I read this article in The New Yorker thanks to a link to it posted on Facebook by Prof. David Yamane.

The article is entitled "Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A." Mike Spies article has a subhead saying "The organization’s leadership is focussed on external threats, but the real crisis may be internal." I hate to say this given all the attacks on the NRA from every Democrat running for President, the State of New York, and the media but from what I've gathered Spies is correct. Just because we don't like the source doesn't mean they are wrong.
Last August, the N.R.A., in desperate need of funds, raised its dues for the second time in two years. To cut costs, it has eliminated free coffee and water coolers at its headquarters and has frozen its employees’ pension plan. Carry Guard, which was meant to save the organization, has proved disastrous. According to the memos, in 2017, the year that Carry Guard was introduced, Ackerman McQueen received some six million dollars for its work on the product, which included the creation of a Web site and media productions featuring celebrity firearms trainers. The lawsuit against New York State has created an additional burden. Sources familiar with the N.R.A.’s financial commitments say that it is paying Brewer’s firm an average of a million and a half dollars a month.

An official assessment performed by Cummins last summer dryly describes the N.R.A.’s decision-making during the previous year as “management’s shift in risk appetite.” The document analyzes the organization’s executive-liability exposures and discusses insurance policies that “protect NRA directors and officers from claims by third parties that they have breached their duties, such as by mismanagement of association assets.” From 2018 to 2019, it says, insurance costs increased by three hundred and forty-one per cent. “To say this is a major increase would be an understatement,” Peter Kochenburger, the deputy director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut, told me. “This seems to be pretty direct evidence that the N.R.A.’s problems are not due to New York but rather to how the organization conducts itself.”

The memos urged the audit committee to “step up + fulfill its duties!,” but it’s not clear what the board has done to root out malfeasance. James Fishman, a co-author of “New York Nonprofit Law and Practice: With Tax Analysis,” a leading text on nonprofit law, told me, “There is no such thing as a director who doesn’t direct. You’re responsible to make yourself aware of what’s going on. If the board doesn’t know, they’ve breached their duty of care, which is against the law in New York,” where the N.R.A. is chartered. According to Owens, the former I.R.S. official, New York State “could sanction board members, remove board members, disband the board, or close down the organization entirely.”
Read that last line again. New York State could close down the NRA entirely by moving for dissolution. You have a governor and attorney general in New York that hate the National Rifle Association. You have a Board of Directors which is too large to be effective. You have Ackerman McQueen trying to preserve its position and an outside counsel trying to take their position for himself. And then you have internal civil war going on within the organization between loyalists to one executive and friends of another leader.

The bottom line is that there are tremendous troubles within the NRA just when you need it to be steadfast in the face of outside attacks.

How bad are these troubles? A reliable source told me that Marion Hammer who hasn't attended a Board of Directors meeting since hell froze over the last time will be in Indianapolis to attend the Board meeting. It's that bad.

UPDATE:  Jeff Knox, son of Neal Knox, and co-head of The Firearm Coalition published an opinion piece of the issue in response to The New Yorker's article. It is well worth a read. He makes some good points in it and calls for the resignation of Board members on the Audit, Finance, and Executive Committee for not doing their jobs.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Ackerman McQueen's Statement On NRA Lawsuit


Ackerman McQueen is the largest and oldest ad agency in Oklahoma City. An Oklahoma City news, politics, and entertainment website, The Lost Ogle, refers to them as "OKC's most revered and reviled ad agency." Not living in Oklahoma, I can speak to the veracity of that comment. However, their article was useful in pointing me to the complete statement from Ack-Mac on the NRA lawsuit.

From The Oklahoman:
"During a three-week review, an NRA forensic auditing firm received every single piece of information they (the NRA) requested.

Further, the NRA has had consistent access to any and all documents regarding NRATV analytics.

Despite the representation set forth in their lawsuit, the NRA had the personnel contract they claim AM (Ackerman McQueen) withheld last week before they filed their lawsuit. It was provided by the Williams & Connolly law firm. The transfer occurred as a result of a process for delivery of such highly confidential information.

This flagrant misrepresentation, along with other false claims, serve as the foundation of malicious intent exemplified by this lawsuit.

Months ago, legal counsel informed the NRA that “Mr. 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.”

Ackerman McQueen has served the NRA and its members with great pride and dedication for the last 38 years. 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.

This lawsuit affects not only Ackerman McQueen, but the members of the organization whose dedication to the Second Amendment is shared equally with the defendants in this case. 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."
You can tell this was written by a PR person. That last paragraph is evidence of that.  As to their lawfirm, Williams and Connolly is pretty fancy. Reports say their first year associates start at $200 grand. You have to bill a lot to be able to pay that.

Village Of Deerfield (Illinois) To Appeal Overturn Of Its AWB


The Village of Deerfield, Illinois had passed an ordinance in 2018 that would have banned standard capacity magazines and "assault weapons" (sic) broadly defined. They were sued by the Illinois State Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation in the case of Easterday v. Deerfield. A second case was filed against the village by Guns Save Lives which was supported by the NRA.

The village lost in March when the Lake County Circuit Court issued a permanent injunction against the ordinance. Judge Luis Berrones found that the ordinance was a new law and not an amendment of a prior ordinance. In 2013 when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Concealed Carry Act and an amended FOID Act, they gave home rule municipalities a few days to amend their ordinances which could have included assault weapon bans. After that time, this power was reserved to the state.

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune is reporting that Deerfield plans to appeal.
The Village of Deerfield plans to appeal a judge’s March 22 ruling permanently blocking the village from enforcing a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

In a short statement Tuesday, the village announced that Mayor Harriet Rosenthal and the village board had unanimously agreed April 15 to appeal the ruling of Lake County Circuit Court Judge Luis Berrones to the Illinois Appellate Court.

In that ruling, Berrones contended that Deerfield overstepped its authority in April 2018 when it enacted a ban on assault weapons after the Illinois legislature had declared such regulations to be the exclusive power of the state.
The village's statement on the appeal notes that they are being represented pro bono.
We appreciate the continued pro bono services that have been provided already, and that will be provided throughout the appellate process by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Mr. Christopher Wilson, partner of the Chicago office of Perkins Coie. We continue to believe that these weapons have no place in our community and that our common-sense assault weapon regulations are legal and were properly enacted."
So an unholy alliance of gun prohibitionists and Big Law (Perkins Coie has 1,000+ lawyers) continues to conspire to help the Village of Deerfield trample on the rights of its citizens to protect themselves. This is lawfare at its worst.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The NRA Sues Their Ad Agency Ackerman McQueen (Update)


I don't begin to know or understand all the internal politics and machinations at the National Rifle Association. I do know that advertising firm Ackerman McQueen and their PR subsidiary Mercury Group have long been considered the power behind the throne. If reports are to be believed, they are the ones who orchestrated the ascension of Wayne LaPierre and the eventual departure of the late Neal Knox. Having heard the story from multiple sources, I give them a lot of credence.

Thus, it was quite surprising to read in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that the NRA was suing Ackerman McQueen and Mercury Group. The story has since been picked up by the New York Times, Fox News, the Washington Post, and a number of other media outlets.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday, April 12, 2019, in the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria (Virginia). The lawsuit accuses Ackerman McQueen of impeding efforts by the NRA to inspect book and records including contracts related to the existing services agreement. This inspection is essential for the NRA Board to fulfill its fiduciary duty and to comply with New York non-for-profit law which governs the NRA's activities since it is incorporated in that state.

The specific concerns that the NRA sought to investigate include:

  • Out of pocket expenses that lacked documentation as required by the Services Agreement
  • Lack of transparency regarding annual budgets as well as adherence to the budgets by Ackerman McQueen
  • Lack of transparency regarding "fair market value" determinations for services
  • Concerns that the NRA was being invoiced for the full salaries of NRA-Dedicated Personnel despite these people spending time on non-NRA clients
  • Refusal to provide data in writing on number of visitors, viewership numbers, and other performance metrics related to NRATV

A footnote also said that many of NRA's stakeholders were concerned "that NRATV's messaging - on topics far afield of the Second Amendment - deviated from the NRA's core mission and values." I know many of my friends in the Second Amendment community shared this concern.

I should note at this point that NRATV is owned by Ackerman McQueen and that personalities such as Cam Edwards and Ginny Simone are actually Ack-Mc employees. This, in turn, is the heart of the other major aspect of this lawsuit - the role of Oliver North with Ackerman McQueen and to whom he owes his allegiance.

The lawsuit alleges that Audit Committee of the Board of Directors sought to review the full contract between Ackerman McQueen and Col. North but was rebuffed. Moreover, North's attorneys indicated he would only "disclose a copy of the contract to the NRA subject to AMc's consent."

 The NRA's General Counsel was finally allowed to see the contract but was not allowed to have a copy. This review by the General Counsel led to many questions. These included a) was North a 3rd-party contractor or an employee of Ack-Mc with a duty of loyalty to them; b) whether previously disclosed costs borne by the NRA for the "North Contract" were accurate; and c) "whether the contract imposed obligations on Col. North that prevent him from communicating fully and honestly with other NRA fiduciaries about AMc." Thus, the NRA says it became determined to resolve these issues.

The suit asks that Ackerman McQueen be found in breach of contract, that they be required to furnish the NRA copies of all AMc-Third Party NRA Contracts, that they be ordered to furnish the NRA with copies of annual budgets for the period 2016-2018, a list of all NRA-Dedicated personnel and the amount of time they devote to the NRA account, and copies of all records that would show the costs to the NRA or the NRA Foundation (from Jan 1, 2018 through April 1, 2019) incurred by North's American Heroes series, from compensation to Col. North, from office space rented for Col. North or related staff, and whether each item was billed specifically to the NRA, the Foundation, or both.

Ackman McQueen contends this lawsuit is the work of the NRA's outside counsel William Brewer III who is the in-law of their co-CEOs Revan and Angus McQueen. However, the lawsuit is brought by the Virginia law firm of  Briglia Hundley not by Mr. Brewer's firm. Todd Rathner, NRA Board Member, speculates that the attack on Mr. Brewer is the work of the pro-AckMc faction of the Board in an effort to undermine Wayne LaPierre.

Board members Todd Rathner and Joel Friedman are on the record about the lawsuit with the New York Times.
The suit culminates the fracturing of a more than three-decade relationship between Ackerman and the N.R.A., going back to the shaping of such memorable lines as Charlton Heston’s proclaiming that his gun would have to be pried “from my cold, dead hands.” Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive of the N.R.A., had previously been a steadfast champion of the Ackerman relationship.

“I think it says something about Wayne’s character, even though he’s had a long-term working business relationship with a vendor, he’s willing to do what is right and necessary for the N.R.A. and its members,” said Todd Rathner, a board member of the rifle association.

Joel Friedman, another board member, said he was dismayed that the documents had not been turned over.

“It leaves you questioning, and you can come up with all these potential different scenarios as to why, but none of them are good,” he said.

“My mind goes to: Are they overcharging us? That’s one,” he added. “Two, are there things charged to us that were not part of the contract? Then, No. 3, has there been a misallocation of personnel?”
It will be interesting to hear the discussion, if any, of this case at the NRA Annual Meeting which starts in little more than a week. As for me, the fact that Board members are finally questioning the costs as well as the role of Ackerman McQueen is good news. In a saner world, with a smaller board that held actual power, the Ackerman McQueen contract would have been put up for bid multiple times over the years. That it hasn't is a disgrace.


UPDATE:  Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned had this to say, in part, about the lawsuit.
This is a struggle that needs to happen. Bitter and I are not as anti-Ack-Mac as some folks. We think there’s merit to some of their work, and they do some things do well. But we also believe their relationship with NRA is unhealthy, and there probably is not be any fixing it. Sometimes you’re just better off pulling the tooth, rather than trying to save it. This is probably one of those cases.
I had a call out of the blue late this afternoon from a person on the NRA Board. It was off the record and not for attribution. This person thinks that the lawsuit might be a smokescreen to protect the NRA from New York State. It gives the impression that they are taking their fiduciary and financial duties seriously. As both the lawsuit notes and I mentioned above, the State of New York revised their statutes to require not-for-profits to do more due diligence and to pay more attention to where members and donors money is being spent.

The rationale behind this being a smokescreen to protect the NRA is that, according to this person, the NRA had not been requiring any sort of invoices or other detailed record-keeping for services rendered in years gone by. In other words, Ack Mc said here is how much we want and please send us a check. God forbid that they were that slack but I believe it.








So that you can read the whole lawsuit, I'm embedding it at the bottom of this post.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

NYC Blinks. Unfortunately


When the Supreme Court surprised us by granting certiorari in NY State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York et al, those of us in the pro-rights community rejoiced. This would be the first major Second Amendment case involving firearms accepted for cert since McDonald v. Chicago. A number of states as well as a number of gun rights organizations filed amicus briefs urging the Court to accept the case. As issue in the case was a New York City law that forbid those with handgun licenses from traveling outside the city limits with their handguns. They were only allowed to transport their handgun to one of seven licensed ranges within the city.

It was felt that this case might be used to establish both the right to carry outside the home and to set the standard that should be used in Second Amendment cases. David Kopel said the case offered the opportunity to "to begin reining in lower court nullification of the Supreme Court’s precedents in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago." Brian Doherty writing in Reason noted that the Second Circuit "believed that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms pretty much only counts in the home, and thus these transport laws do not harm its core purpose." He went on to say the many American believe their right to self defense does not end when they step out the door of their home.

At the end of March I noted an op-ed by Ladd Everitt, Director of George Takai's gun control organization One Pulse for America, which urged the City of New York and the NYPD to change the law forbidding transport. I postulated that the gun control lobby was getting a bit nervous by this case and wanted the city to do what it took to moot the case. While I don't think Everitt's op-ed would case the City of New York to reevaluate its law, I'm sure some heavy hitters among the gun prohibitionists getting on-board this bandwagon would.

Michael Bloomberg's wholly funded mouthpiece, The Trace, ran a story on Monday on the case and by Friday the City of New York had filed a motion with the Supreme Court advising them that the NYPD was engaging in a proposed rulemaking that would moot the case.

From the city's attorney:
The Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari in this case on January 22, 2019, and petitioners’ merits brief is currently due on May 7, 2019.

I write to advise the Court of a proposed rulemaking. If adopted in accordance with established procedures, the proposed rule would render this case moot before the parties complete the merits briefing in this case. For this reason, I also write to request that the Court stay the current briefing schedule pending final action on the proposed rule.
The proposed rule would allow residents with a premises permit for their handgun to transport them, unloaded, in a locked container, with the ammo in a separate container to:
  • Another premises of the licensee where the licensee is authorized to have and possess a handgun;
  • A small-arms range/shooting club authorized by law to operate as such, whether located within or outside New York City; and
  • A shooting competition at which the licensee may possess the handgun consistent with the law applicable at the place of the competition.
The NRA-ILA released a statement calling the move, in essence, a sham.
“The City of New York clearly knows that its current restrictions on the carrying and transportation of lawfully owned firearms are unconstitutional and will fail under any standard of constitutional review, as the NRA has been saying for years. Today, it asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore the Constitution and allow the City to slow walk a narrow expansion of its current policy through a lengthy bureaucratic process -- the result of which, even if adopted, would still unduly infringe upon the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment. That is not how things work in the Supreme Court; the Court does not put its review on hold while the government embarks on a journey that at best might fix only a limited part of the constitutional defect. This is nothing more than a naked attempt by New York City to resist Supreme Court review of policies that even New York must recognize as inconsistent with the holdings in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago. The City of New York did not respect its citizens' Second Amendment rights before the Supreme Court granted review in this case and it will not respect them going forward. We are confident that the Court will reject New York's desperate attempt to avoid review of its blatantly unconstitutional laws."
 I'm not sure the NRA is correct in being confident that the Supreme Court will reject New York City's request to hold off on briefing the case. Given the chance to avoid the issue, I think the Supreme Court as led by Chief Justice Roberts may do just that. They have had many other opportunities to take another Second Amendment case and have punted.