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[AP Photo/Steve Ueckert]

NRA, Longtime PR Firm Escalate Feud With Dueling Lawsuits

For the second time in two months, The National Rifle Association is taking its longtime marketing firm Ackerman McQueen to court. This time, Ackerman is firing back.

Late Wednesday, NRA lawyers filed suit against Ackerman in Virginia Circuit Court accusing the Oklahoma-based company of targeted leaks to the media that were part of a broader “coup” attempt. The gun group is seeking $40 million in compensatory damages.

It look less than 24 hours for Ackerman to respond in the same Virginia court, launching its own counterclaim on Thursday morning. Ackerman, which is seeking $50 million in damages, argues that the NRA’s allegations are bogus, and an effort to hide its own internal strife.

Both suits were first reported by The Daily Beast.

The NRA alleges in its suit that Ackerman was the origin of recent articles detailing lavish spending by NRA leader Wayne LaPierre.

“Over the past year, even as it withheld important documents and information from the NRA, AMc [Ackerman McQueen] readily shared snippets of confidential and proprietary materials with hostile third parties, including the news media – in a series of sordid, out-of-context ‘leaks’ engineered by AMc to harm its client,” reads one broadside from the NRA’s suit, according to The Daily Beast.

The Trace, in partnership with The New Yorker, has extensively documented financial improprieties at the NRA and how top executives, contractors, and vendors siphoned millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget.

In its new lawsuit, the NRA also accuses Ackerman of plotting with Oliver North, the gun group’s former president, of trying to engineer LaPierre’s ouster. During the NRA’s annual convention in April, North and LaPierre were engaged in a public power struggle over the group’s leadership. North ultimately stepped down. “As became widely publicized, LaPierre prevailed – and AMc’s coup attempt failed,” the suit reads.

The lawsuit signals an escalation in tensions between the NRA and its longtime messagemaker. In April, the NRA sued Ackerman for the first time, claiming that its  partner had engaged in deceptive billing practices and had refused to open up its books — a claim Ackerman denied in public statements.  

In its countersuit, Ackerman says NRA auditors had spent nine days examining its books. The NRA’s latest legal action, Ackerman contends, is really an effort to turn “the spotlight away from the NRA’s troubles and setting up Lt. Col. North and AMc [Ackerman McQueen] to be the scapegoat in the national news.”

The Ackerman countersuit further accuses the NRA of trying to get out of paying the firm “a very substantial amount of money” — a sum that would be on top of the more than $100 million in payments to the firm disclosed in the NRA’s five most recent annual tax filings.