Mexican Standoff At The NRA
Shit is CRAZY at the NRA today! And every day, but especially today, when three batshit stories dropped before lunchtime. Let's call them The Dirty, The Juicy, and The Payload, then let's skip the foreplay and dive right in before another story drops.
On any other day, the New Yorker/Trace story about the company's recently retired CFO embezzling $1 million from his previous employer (allegedly) would be the biggest deal in Gunland. It all started back in 1991 when a vendor for the employee benefits firm Wyatt Company called to demand payment on an overdue $45,000 invoice. Turns out, Wyatt's chief financial officer Wilson "Woody" Phillips, Jr. had accidentally deposited the check into his own account. So careless! For the other $950,000 he's alleged to have embezzled, he remembered to generate false invoices like a competent embezzler. Geez, get it together, Woody!
The theft was discovered by Mary Hughes, Wyatt's accounts payable manager at the time, who said, "Wyatt's doors would have closed if the company prosecuted him." So Phillips quietly paid the money back and went on to a lucrative career as CFO at the NRA. And all of it would have stayed swept under the rug if it weren't for the one million stories coming out lately about corruption at the Gunhumpers Lobby, particularly the New Yorker/Trace report of a leaked internal document stating "that the NRA had made 'payments' to Phillips's 'significant other.'" At which point, Hughes came forward with her story, which was substantiated by other former Wyatt employees, and The Trace's Mike Spies kept digging into Woody Phillips.
You really, REALLY don't want Mike Spies up in your shit. Turns out, Phillips was simultaneously CFO of the NRA and CFO of Memberdrive, a vendor that charged the NRA for membership retention services. And if that's not a glaring enough conflict of interest, the wives of NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and the NRA's director of membership were also employed by Memberdrive. As we have mentioned, related party transactions MUST be disclosed to the IRS, a rule that the NRA largely ignored until New York Attorney General Letitia James told them they were in danger of being prosecuted for failing to comply with the state's public charity laws. Oopsie!
But don't worry, it's cool because Phillips retired in 2018. (It's not cool.)
We don't have enough pixels to give you the whole backstory on the NRA/Ackerman McQueen cage match, but in a nutshell, the relationship between the NRA and its longtime advertising company Ackerman McQueen has become somewhat ... ingrown, with employees and board members going back and forth, money disbursed with little or no accountability, and accusations of self-dealing. It all seems to have come to a boil when then-NRA president (yes, that) Oliver North took a lucrative position with AMc shooting a series for NRATV, which is produced entirely by AMc.
After New York AG James told the NRA to get its house in order or else, the NRA demanded an accounting from AMc. Ackerman balked at explaining exactly how it was spending $40 million per year of the NRA's money and flatly refused to fork over North's contract. The NRA sued to get the info, at which point North called up NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre's office and said that he better back off and drop the suit, or else AMc was going to smear him and tell the board about all his travel and clothing allowances routed through AMc, as well as other financial improprieties at the NRA. Instead, the NRA board replaced North with Your Confederate Granny, and then someone leaked the damaging info online.
Which brings us to yesterday, when the NRA sued Oliver North in New York, asking the court to declare that the NRA is in no wise responsible for North's legal bills, not related to his summons by the Senate Finance Committee, and certain not for all the AMc litigation. Because Oliver North was actually AN AMc EMPLOYEE the entire time, so AMc can cover his costs, thankyouverymuch.
And now, let's all enjoy an afternoon laugh that Oliver North tried to extort the NRA (allegedly), possibly resulting in the implosion of the powerful gun lobby, simply to hide the fact that he was a W-2 employee, not an independent contractor.
Therefore, it was not until April of 2019 that the NRA learned that, under the contract with Ackerman, North was an actual employee of Ackerman, not a third-party contractor as had originally been represented. This means that all this time North has owed fiduciary duties to Ackerman. North had been provided conditional approval by the NRA to continue his engagement with Ackerman—but such approval was based on the premise that he was a third-party contractor of Ackerman, not a full-time employee with fiduciary duties to Ackerman.
Under his employment agreement with Ackerman, North is compensated directly by Ackerman—money which would ultimately be reimbursed by the NRA. Such an arrangement creates a clear conflict of interest for North.
Hey, remember that time when everyone on Twitter was like, LOL, NRA too grifty for Ollie freakin' North? Joke's on them -- the real villain was AOT,K!
But wait, there's more! Because North wasn't plotting this palace coup alone, he had help from several other NRA board members, including former congressman Dan Boren and (now) former NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox.
North and his co-conspirators orchestrated these threats through, among other things, a string of text messages that are filed herewith. The text messages were produced in the Virginia Litigation by Dan Boren, an NRA board member employed by one of Ackerman's other major clients, the Chickasaw Nation. Boren relayed the contents of Ackerman's threatened letter to North and helped to choreograph the ultimatum they presented to Mr. LaPierre. Moreover, in email correspondence transmitted over non-NRA servers, Boren admitted his knowledge that Ackerman may have been invoicing the NRA for full salaries of employees who were actually working on the Chickasaw Nation account. The same text messages and email messages demonstrate that another errant NRA fiduciary, Chris Cox — once thought by some to be a likely successor for Mr. LaPierre — participated in the Ackerman/North/Boren conspiracy.
If we might translate, NRA appears to be alleging that AMc improperly billed the NRA for work done for Dan Boren's client the Chickasaw Nation. And this information came out in text messages disclosed in the the litigation over Ollie North's AMc contract.
The New York Times reports that Chris Cox has now been suspended from the NRA, along with his chief of staff.
ALL OVER A GODDAMNED W-2!
What if we told you that, on top of all of this, NRATV might be about to disappear? Bow chicka bow bow!
The Daily Beast reports that AMc sued the NRA in Virginia court yesterday alleging that they're owed $1.6 million, and if the NRA doesn't "post the $3,000,000 letter of credit mandated by the parties' contract," then AMc is going to have to lay off half its employees and pull the plug on NRATV. Daily Beast quotes the filing saying, "The alternative is that AMc will be compelled to discontinue all services to the NRA and lose the employees who perform those services forever, incurring costs for severance the NRA is unlikely to pay without litigation."
Which means that Dana Loesch will no longer get paid millions of dollars to make videos viewed by literal hundreds of people. [Edit: Whoops, that was an old press release! Our bad -- and by that I mean me, your FDF, MY BAD. On the plus side, that means poor Dana may actually be out of a job next week. Which would a goddamn shame! Oh, noes!]
But dry your salty tears, kids, because your beloved Dana Loesch is landing on her feet. NRATV may be deader than gun control in Wyoming, but the NRA just announced that she's coming over to the mothership as Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President for Public Communication. That's right, she's going to be Wayne LaPierre's Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Which is probably a pretty good way to keep her from spilling any tea on whatever went down at AMc when she was busy photoshopping Klan hoods on cartoon characters and flogging murder weapons for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
So, mazal tov, Dana, on your new job as skipper of the Titanic. Hope you enjoy the ride!
You all: Enjoy the OPEN THREAD.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.