MANHATTAN (CN) – The attorney general of New York asked a court Monday to block the National Rifle Association from interfering in her subpoena of the gun group’s longtime ad agency.
Facing a state investigation of its nonprofit status, the NRA has been fighting back every step of the way. It lost a bid last month to sit in on the state’s deposition of former NRA president Oliver North, and apparently has tried again in recent months to insert itself between various affiliated entities and the attorney general’s probe – even though it is the target of the investigation.
“The integrity of [our office’s] investigation into potential misconduct by the NRA, its directors and officers, and its affiliated entities would be necessarily and irreparably compromised by allowing the investigative target to review, and potentially countermand, third parties’ prospective document productions in response to investigative subpoenas,” Assistant Attorney General Monica Connell wrote Monday in a 12-page complaint.
Claiming that Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s longtime advertising agency, wants to comply with the attorney general’s subpoena, the complaint notes that the two groups have been legal adversaries for a few months now because the state’s investigation has raised allegations of fiduciary-duty violations against the NRA.
Due to a nondisclosure agreement that Ackerman has been withholding, however, Connell says Ackerman allegedly fears legal retribution if it turns over documents to the state without letting the NRA see them first and exercise veto power.
Connell seeks a court order that compels the ad agency to comply with the subpoena without having to go through the NRA first. She also emphasizes that the office has complied with proper protocol for initiating and conducting the investigation.
“Specifically, allowing the NRA, the subject of its investigation, to contractually demand the right to pre-screen and potentially veto document productions from [Ackerman McQueen] and other third parties subject to similar NDAs would undermine [the Office of the Attorney General]’s ability to protect its investigative sources and methods, maintain the confidentiality of its investigative theories and progress, and otherwise impede [the Office of the Attorney General] in carrying out its multiple statutory mandates with respect to the enforcement of New York law,” the complaint states.
While Ackerman McQueen did not respond to a request for comment, the NRA disputes that it has interfered in the state’s subpoena.
“In fact, the NRA told Ackerman McQueen to produce everything the AG sought – after giving the NRA a chance to redact privileged information,” NRA attorney William Brewer III said in a statement. “That, of course, is a tried and true approach routinely followed where, as here, a civil subpoena to a third party implicates a principal’s confidential documents. This is not a dispute about whether Attorney General James can access NRA-related documents. 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.”