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News and notes on guns in America

The NRA Lawyer Downplaying Conflict-of-Interest Claims Has His Own Family Ties to the Gun Group

The National Rifle Association is under additional scrutiny after The Wall Street Journal reported the group gave lucrative contracts to companies with ties to NRA executives.

Acting as a spokesperson for the NRA in the story was William A. Brewer III, a Dallas attorney whose firm has represented the organization in lawsuits regarding its Carry Guard insurance program and which assumed public relations duties for the gun group. He told Journal reporter Mark Maremont that the NRA has “appropriate processes and safeguards in place” to address conflicts of interest. Brewer was the only person beside Powell whose photograph appeared in the story.

Brewer, however, has his own family ties to a top NRA vendor: His father-in-law is Angus McQueen, who is the co-CEO of the public relations firm Ackerman McQueen. Ackerman McQueen has deep ties to the NRA.  For decades, the company has helped the group craft its political messaging. According to tax filings, Ackerman or its affiliates were paid some $40 million by the NRA in 2017. Brewer is married to McQueen’s daughter, Skye.

A former employee of Brewer’s said that the litigator talked about the family connection in the office. “When I interviewed with him, he mentioned that his wife’s father was a brilliant marketer who was behind the NRA,” said the employee, who worked for Brewer for a year.

Brewer’s firm started taking on legal work for the NRA this spring. He represented the gun group in two lawsuits: one challenging the state of New York’s enforcement actions against insurers who worked with the group on Carry Guard, and another against one of those insurance companies, Lockton Affinity, for breach of contract. The NRA recently settled the second suit.

As The Trace reported in August, Brewer misrepresented himself in an application to appear as outside counsel in the Virginia lawsuit. In a signed statement he asserted that he had never been sanctioned for his conduct in court, when in fact he had been fined $177,000 for attempted jury and witness manipulation in a Texas personal injury case (he is currently appealing that penalty to the state’s Supreme Court). After the Trace’s story appeared, a judge revoked his permission to appear in that Virginia courtroom.

Ackerman McQueen declined to comment for this story. A spokesperson for Brewer said the attorney’s relationship to Angus McQueen played no role whatsoever in the NRA’s decision to hire the law firm.

The man at the center of the Journal’s story, executive director of general operations Josh Powell, has an extensive history of dubious business dealings. As The Trace reported in October, before coming to the NRA, Powell ran a series of failed businesses that often neglected to pay vendors. He has been hounded by lawsuits and accusations of incompetent management. Nonetheless, he was hired as a top executive by the gun group, which has recently been in the throes of financial turmoil.