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News and notes on guns in America

Top NRA Lawyer Billed the Group $54 Million, Court Filings Allege

Ackerman McQueen, the National Rifle Association’s former marketing and public relations agency, is asking a federal judge to bar William A. Brewer III and his law firm from representing the gun group in a lawsuit between the two parties, who have waged a legal battle for a year.

In a brief filed April 15 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, attorneys for Ackerman argue that Brewer has a “multi-decade, animus-filled family relationship with the owners” of the agency. Brewer is married to the daughter of Angus McQueen, who led Ackerman since the 1980s and helped forge the NRA’s public image. He died in July.

In their brief, Ackerman’s attorneys estimate “upon information and belief” that the NRA has paid Brewer’s firm “over $54 million” in the last two years. Several NRA officials and employees who have left the gun group during that time have told The Trace that Brewer’s legal fees have contributed to the cash crunch that recently led to layoffs at the organization.

Employed by the NRA since March 2018, Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors has offices in Dallas and New York. Brewer, who has increasingly played a decision-making role at the NRA, is representing the group in multiple lawsuits and leading its response to investigations into possible violations of nonprofit law by attorneys general in New York and Washington, D.C.  

As The Trace has reported, Brewer’s massive legal bills have raised alarms inside the NRA and led to charges that he tried to intimidate and silence staff who questioned his firm’s fees. In the fall of 2019, several board members publicly urged the NRA’s leadership to “conduct an outside, independent review of the millions of dollars in payments” made to Brewer’s firm.

Before Angus McQueen died, the filing in Texas alleges, Brewer passed a message to his father-in-law and his brother-in-law, Revan McQueen, the company’s chief executive. Through NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, Brewer threatened to have the men indicted by the Justice Department for “unidentified improprieties related to their work for the NRA.” Brewer also used family members to communicate with Angus and Revan McQueen about the case, despite knowing that the men were represented by counsel, the filing states.

As a basis for disqualification, Ackerman’s attorneys cite Brewer’s “side-stepping of the attorney-client privilege,” his “numerous personal and professional” conflicts in regard to the litigation, and the necessity of his testimony to address claims made by both sides.

In a filing on another matter also made on April 15, the Brewer firm took aim at Ackerman’s arguments, saying they were baseless. The NRA and the Brewer firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment and have until April 27 to provide the judge with a formal response to Ackerman’s disqualification request.