After months of drama and discord, the National Rifle Association notched two small victories in court on Wednesday.
Just minutes before news broke that the group’s top lobbyist had resigned, Judge Nolan Dawkins in circuit court in Alexandria, Virginia, ruled that the NRA does not immediately have to pay its former ad firm $1.6 million.
The firm, Ackerman McQueen, had previously asked the judge to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the NRA to pay the money it owes, claiming dozens of its employees could lose their income without it. Those employees worked for NRATV, the often-controversial internet channel Ackerman McQueen ran for the NRA.
The hearing was the latest salvo in a months-long cage match between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen in which millions of dollars are at stake. The court battle has pried open the doors of the NRA, a notably press-shy organization that spent years trying to circumvent mainstream media attention by running conservative counterprogramming on NRATV. But allegations of opaque billing practices and legal tomfoolery have pitted the NRA against Ackerman McQueen, which used to run its programming. Coupled with other financial problems, the fight indicates the NRA’s future may be fraught.
Ackerman McQueen, which had represented the NRA for almost four decades, has said in court filings that dozens of its employees could be laid off or furloughed if the NRA doesn’t pay the firm the $1.6 million.
In a motion filed last week, the firm asked the judge to move fast. But in court Wednesday, the judge said he didn’t have enough time allotted that day to hear out both sides’ arguments over the money. So, at least for now, the NRA doesn’t have to pay.
David Dickieson, who represents Ackerman McQueen, said in court that the gun group’s internal struggle has collateral damage.
“What we are witnessing here is the implosion of the NRA,” he said. “Let me correct that: It’s not the implosion, it’s the explosion.”
The judge also let a Dallas-based lawyer for the NRA’s outside law firm, Brewer Attorneys and Counselors, waive in to represent the gun group in its case against Ackerman. The relationship between the firm, the NRA, and Ackerman McQueen is an odd one: Bill Brewer, the head of the law firm, is the brother-in-law of Ackerman McQueen’s CEO, Revan McQueen.
Lawyers for the ad firm have alleged that Brewer is using the NRA’s legal fight with the ad firm to steal its business and take over public affairs for the gun group. On top of that, lawyers for both the NRA and Ackerman McQueen said in court that Brewer could be a witness in litigation between the NRA and the ad firm. The ad firm’s lawyer argued this should have kept the other lawyer from Brewer’s firm, Mike Collins, from representing the NRA. But the judge didn’t bite, and Collins will take part in the case.
The night before the hearing, the NRA abruptly announced it was ending its contract with the ad firm.