AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
The National Rifle Association and NRA TV brand are often thought of as one and the same. The online streaming service is, ostensibly, a voice for the organization as well as a way to provide pro-gun content for the pro-Second Amendment crowd.
Additionally, anti-gunners vilify NRA TV much like they do the NRA. Again, one and the same, at least in most people’s eyes.
So I’m sure there was some confusion when people saw a headline claiming the NRA was suing the company responsible for NRA TV.
The NRA is suing the longtime vendor that produces NRA TV, accusing the firm of hiding details on how it spends the gun-rights organization’s money and obscuring its financial relationship with NRA president Oliver North. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Virginia, is “a stunning breach within the normally buttoned-up organization,” The New York Times reported Monday, and it could lead to North’s ouster, the end of NRA TV, or a permanent rift with Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma ad company that runs NRA TV and has worked closely with the NRA for more than three decades.
NRA TV has been widely “perceived by the public as the voice of the NRA” since Ackerman McQueen created it in 2016, the NRA’s complaint says, and the Times reports that at least two prominent NRA board members have expressed alarm that NRA TV has strayed far beyond gun rights and into warnings about race wars, salvos at the FBI, and incendiary antics like putting Thomas the Tank Engine in a Ku Klux Klan hood.
To be fair, a lot of gun owners have been quite happy with that spill-over by NRA TV. There have been some that have criticized the NRA for giving good grades to questionable politicians in the past, for example. I’ve heard plenty of lament about that.
That said, I also get where the NRA is coming from. They’re a single-issue organization, and it needs to focus on that single issue.
However, those concerns aren’t exactly what the lawsuit is about.
The proximate cause of the dispute, however, is NRA concern about financial shenanigans at Ackerman, including questions about whether the NRA’s $40 million a year pays for Ackerman’s staff when they work for other clients, and its alleged refusal to hand over financial records on things like out-of-pocket expenses “that lacked meaningful documentation of NRA approvals, receipts or other support,” the complaint says. “The NRA’s patience has run out,” the complaint adds. Ackerman says it provided the NRA’s auditors with all requested documentation.
This, I understand. I don’t know what the deal is because I’m not privy to the proceedings, but money is an issue for anyone. The NRA has been a bit more cash-strapped than usual, so it’s unsurprising that they’re looking to make sure nothing is being spent without proper approvals. If Ackerman isn’t handling the money right, no wonder the NRA is concerned.
But what does this mean for NRA TV?
Honestly, it’s probably too soon to speculate. While the NRA is strapped for money, it’s entirely possible they could move the production in-house. They’d be able to control the content a bit more that way, plus they’d likely cut out the profit that Ackerman supposedly gets. Since Ackerman isn’t exactly a production studio where economies of scale factors in, this might be an option should the lawsuit morph into an acrimonious split.
Then again, the NRA may also decide that enough is enough and shutter the project completely.
At this point, no one knows. It’s also just as likely that this gets settled out of court and the two proceed onward as if nothing happened.
Either way, I expect the anti-gunners will be watching and trying to read tea leaves that aren’t there so they can predict the demise of the NRA.