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Justice Department Bankruptcy Watchdog Says NRA Legal Team Has “Disqualifying Conflicts” in Bankruptcy Case, as Conservative Media Turn on NRA

February 17, 2021

WSJ: “The Justice Department’s Bankruptcy Monitor Wants the National Rifle Association’s go-to Lawyers Barred from Representing the Gun-Rights Group in its Chapter 11 Case, Citing ‘Disqualifying Conflicts’ and Previous Allegations of Billing Improprieties”

Meanwhile, Conservative Media and Other Gun Rights Groups Mock NRA as it Tumbles Through Bankruptcy Proceedings and Unveils More Extravagant Spending for Executives

NEW YORK –– The Wall Street Journal reports that, “Brewer Attorneys & Counselors, a law firm that has represented the NRA in court and administrative proceedings across the country, isn’t suitable to be part of the crew of court-supervised lawyers handling the gun group’s bankruptcy, according to a Tuesday court filing by the U.S. Trustee, which oversees bankruptcy courts for the U.S. government.”

WSJ (emphasis added):

“The U.S. Trustee said the Brewer firm should have disclosed everything it made from the NRA, not just its fees for restructuring advice. The law firm’s application to be hired as the NRA’s special counsel doesn’t lay out how much it cost to defend Mr. LaPierre against the state litigation before he got his own lawyer. 

“The Brewer firm also failed to disclose that it faces allegations of wrongdoing including billing improprieties in the New York litigation and a separate case involving former NRA President Oliver North, according to the U.S. Trustee. The NRA is seeking permission to hire the Brewer firm for both those cases and other litigation while other firms serve as general bankruptcy counsel.”

The Department of Justice writes in its filing that, “Not only should the Application be denied because the broad scope of services to be provided do not fit within section 327(e)’s constraints, but [the Brewer firm] also has divided loyalties and conflicts of interest.”

The filing cites claims that the NRA has paid Brewer’s firm at least $54 million to represent the organization in a variety of litigation, including congressional investigations, litigation with its former public relations firm Ackerman McQueen, and with the New York and Washington D.C. attorneys general. A former head of the charities bureau of the New York Attorney General’s office previously described Brewer’s legal fees as “eye popping” and said, “not only were they overpaid… it appears they were not competent.”

“Birds of a feather flock together, so it’s no surprise to learn that the NRA’s lawyer-of-choice has been accused of playing fast and loose with the truth,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

“The NRA is a dumpster fire,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “Their agenda and reputation are in tatters in both the courts and the court of public opinion. It’s fascinating to watch their organization become a punch line, even among right-wing media.”

Making matters worse for the NRA, its purported allies — in rightwing media and within the gun rights movement — appear to be turning on it, mocking it on social media and uncovering new examples of extravagant spending to benefit its executives.

The Daily Caller quote-tweeted the NRA over the weekend, writing, “NRA takes a break from private plane rides to their NRA purchased mansions to comment on gun rights.”

The Washington Free Beacon wrote a scathing piece documenting new examples of lavish spending by the NRA, including a 2018 Range Rover Sport for the group’s treasurer, an $80,000 statue and $15,000 painting of former NRA president Chalton Heston, and a $20,000 advance payment to a private jet company. The report also detailed how a recent “NRA filing said the group has over 1,000 creditors ranging from a few dollars to a few million,” including millions owed to the IRS.

The Free Beacon report prompted the Firearms Policy Coalition, a fellow gun rights group, to tweet, “Things we don’t have: Jets, Range Rovers, statues, buildings, bankruptcy filings.”

The mix of financial and legal struggles are breeding discontent inside the NRA. NRA Board Member Philip Journey formally requested a trustee or examiner be appointed to run the NRA. Additionally, David Dell’Aquila, a one-time benefactor turned critic of NRA leadership who has led a donor revolt over the past year, has told The Trace that he had persuaded a group of like-minded supporters to withhold $163 million in planned donations. Dell’Aquila is also leading a fraud lawsuit against the NRA, in which “ex-National Rifle Association benefactors alleged that the group had improperly used their money to cover, among other things, $2 million a month in legal fees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in clothing and private plane trips for NRA head Wayne LaPierre.”

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