Rounds

News and notes on guns in America

NRA Put Faith in Bill Brewer’s New York Connections, According to Court Filing

William A. Brewer III certainly has the look of a power attorney. And he enjoys name recognition in the legal world. But does he have the clout to rein in the Attorney General of New York?

National Rifle Association boss Wayne LaPierre apparently thought so, according to recent court filings in which LaPierre is said to have touted Brewer’s “key relationships” in the state.

Some backstory: While campaigning to be New York attorney general in the summer of 2018, Letitia James put the NRA on notice, vowing that, if elected, she would investigate whether the gun group was operating as a legitimate charity. Brewer, hired in early 2018 as an outside counsel, responded by criticizing James for promising “a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.”

“The truth is,” Brewer continued, “the NRA is a law-abiding New York institution that endures for one reason: it fights for its members and their constitutional rights.”

James won the Democratic primary in September 2018, all but assuring that she would become attorney general. The following month, LaPierre travelled to Dallas to meet with executives of Ackerman McQueen, the gun group’s longtime public relations firm. There was tension at the meeting over Brewer’s conduct and requests to see Ackerman documents.

According to sworn statements filed this month from three Ackerman executives who attended the meeting, LaPierre sought to allay concerns about Brewer. “Mr. LaPierre explained that Mr. Brewer was going to be gone in 30 to 60 days anyway because he was going to have everything resolved with the New York Attorney General,” Ackerman executive Melanie Montgomery stated. “Mr. LaPierre repeatedly said that Mr. Brewer was the only person who could save the NRA from the New York Attorney General, that Mr. Brewer had some key relationships in the State of New York, and that Mr. Brewer ‘knew how to fix this.’”

Montgomery’s statement, which is consistent with those from other executives, asserts that during a January 2019 meeting, LaPierre said “numerous times that Mr. Brewer was the only person that was going to keep him out of jail.” Pressed on why jail was a worry, Montgomery swore that LaPierre told “everyone in the room that, ‘you don’t know what you don’t know.’”

By some accounts, Brewer and his aggressive tactics are in part responsible for the upheaval that has rocked the NRA in recent times and the collapse of its relationship with Ackerman.

Brewer has been a trustee at Albany Law School and New York University School of Law, both of which he attended. Between 2009 and 2011, he personally donated $35,000 to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, according to state records. Through foundations, Brewer has supported various NYU programs and his firm, Brewer Attorneys & Counselors, has offices in Manhattan and Dallas.

Still, that’s a relatively modest footprint for a New York fixer.

“Bill Brewer is obviously known in New York legal circles,” said Joe Patrice, editor of the New York legal news site Above the Law. “But I don’t perceive him commanding any real clout in politics. He may hail from Long Island, but he’s very much a lawyer from Dallas at this point.”

A spokesperson for the firm did not respond to a request for comment.

In April 2019, James announced that her office had begun an investigation of the NRA, which has continued to pay Brewer’s substantial legal fees all the while. Those fees, which have totaled over $54 million according to a court filing that Ackerman made in April, have caused controversy at the NRA, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.