The civil war between the NRA and its former partner, PR firm Ackerman McQueen, continues to yield a neverending slew of allegations of corrupt practices. Seemingly every day, another receipt is leaked, calling into question the Second Amendment-loving, tax-exempt organization’s leadership practices. The Trace, in partnership with ProPublica, reports that Josh Powell, a former Wayne LaPierre favorite and his chief of staff since 2016, was allegedly such a toxic harasser that Ackerman McQueen refused to work with him. According to the report, Powell was the subject of two harassment settlements at the nonprofit; the amount of money spent to keep these stories hidden is not known.
The NRA claims that Powell denied the allegations against him. Ackerman McQueen sent a written statement to ProPublica, saying that after a female Ackerman employee filed a complaint against Powell, the public relations firm “formally declared to Mr. LaPierre that it would not have any more dealings with Mr. Powell.” Additionally, the former NRA partner asserted that there was “clear reason to believe supported by evidence that he sexually harassed one of our employees. Ackerman doubled down in their statement on the matter by adding, “And we would not tolerate his further involvement with any of our employees in order to protect their right to a safe work environment.”
The NRA and Ackerman McQueen remain locked in a set of lawsuits and investigations. The NRA’s response to this story is to call it part of an “extortion” strategy on the part of their former partners. This approach is consistent with LaPierre’s successful solidification of his powers atop the NRA food chain. LaPierre sent a letter to the NRA’s board in April, accusing former NRA president Oliver North of “extortion tactics,” and conspiring with executives at Ackerman McQueen in a coup to overthrow existing NRA leadership.
Powell previously made headlines in 2018 as then-executive director of general operations, when it was reported that he was cinching the NRA’s purse strings by eliminating free coffee and water for employees at the organization’s Virginia headquarters. Maybe he knew the cost of his settlements would have to come out of the budget somehow? It could just be a coincidence, but one thing is clear: After years of holding the American public hostage to their political power, the NRA’s influence is finally waning, and meaningful public safety isn’t far off.
Thoughts and prayers.