N.Y. sues NRA’s former ad agency Ackerman in subpoena fight

Erik Larson

New York’s attorney general sued the National Rifle Association’s former advertising agency to enforce a subpoena stemming from the state’s probe of the gun-rights group’s nonprofit status.

The agency, Ackerman McQueen, has said it can’t comply with the July 8 subpoena without first giving the NRA veto power over what it hands over, Attorney General Letitia James said in a lawsuit filed late Monday.

In this June 11, 2019 file photo, New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference in New York. James has sued the NRA’s former advertising agency to enforce a subpoena stemming from a probe of their nonprofit status.

Ackerman McQueen, which helped shape the NRA’s mission for decades before a public split this year, told the attorney general it wants to comply with the subpoena but fears it’s legally required to allow the gun group to weigh in under a nondisclosure agreement, according to the filing.

The integrity of the probe “would be necessarily and irreparably compromised by allowing the investigative target to review, and potentially countermand, third parties’ prospective document productions,” the state said.

The probe started after former NRA president Oliver North alleged that Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s longtime leader and public face, used the NRA to enrich himself, an accusation LaPierre denied. North, accused of trying to overthrow LaPierre, was ousted. The NRA also sued Ackerman McQueen.

The ad agency and didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the attorney general’s suit.

William Brewer, a lawyer for the NRA, said in an emailed statement that the organization has a right to redact privileged information in Ackerman McQueen’s documents, calling the practice a “tried and true approach” that’s routinely followed in such cases.

“This is not a dispute about whether Attorney General James can access NRA-related documents,” Brewer said. “It’s a dispute about whether she can do so secretly, in a manner designed to circumvent the NRA’s clear legal rights – including the right to protect our members’ personal information from a political witch hunt.”

With assistance from Neil Weinberg.