NRA v. Ackerman, Texas

Deposition of Former NRA CFO Wilson Phillips

August 30, 2021

Filing Summary

On August 30 and October 20, 2021, former longtime NRA CFO and Treasurer Wilson Phillips sat for two depositions in the NRA’s litigation with their former vendor Ackerman McQueen. That deposition transcript was made public in a November 29, 2021 filing. NRA Watch reviewed the transcript and highlighted some testimony of note below.

Key Points

  • Phillips testified regarding WBB Investments, an entity in which the NRA and Ackerman McQueen executives allegedly partnered up to facilitate the purchase of a mansion for Wayne LaPierre’s use. Phillips claimed the purpose of WBB Investments “was to have a vehicle to purchase or otherwise make available some place of residence for Wayne LaPierre and his wife when they couldn’t come back to Northern Virginia for security purposes.” (p.267) 
    • Phillips said he initially understood that as part of WBB Investments, the NRA would not contribute toward the purchase of the house, but that the group from Ackerman McQueen “would purchase it and we would work out an arrangement to have its use for” the LaPierres. (p.268) Phillips acknowledged that the agreement in fact stated that the NRA would contribute 99 percent and the Ackerman McQueen executives would contribute 1 percent toward the purchase. (p.270) 
    • Phillips said that he and Wayne LaPierre were “confused” because they thought they had agreed “that the funds could come from Ackerman McQueen and that we would have a separate agreement for use of the property.” (p.291) 
    • Phillips said that no NRA lawyers were involved in the drafting of the agreement and that he did not seek any legal advice before he signed it. (p.268, 292) In fact, Phillips said he “signed that document in the hallway when somebody told me that we needed to get it out that night. So I did not focus on it.” (p.329) Phillips said he would not have signed had he known that the NRA would contribute the vast majority, later adding that he “knew that NRA could not buy the house without full board approval under the not-for-profit laws.” (p.270, 330) 
  • Phillips testified regarding the purpose and degree of expenses the NRA was passing through Ackerman McQueen and contradicted Wayne LaPierre’s denials of knowledge of the same. Phillips acknowledged that the 2018 NRA budget with Ackerman McQueen projected $950,000 in pass-through expenses with the firm. (p.110) Shown previous testimony from Wayne LaPierre in which LaPierre denied knowing that the NRA was passing certain expenses through Ackerman McQueen, Phillips said that LaPierre “would know that Ackerman McQueen was paying for certain NRA costs and then billing them for it” and offered the explanation that “the term ‘pass-through expenses’ may not have rung a bell with” LaPierre when he was asked to testify about them. (p.115-117)
  • Phillips testified to the importance and depth of Wayne LaPierre’s relationship with Ackerman McQueen. He explained that LaPierre’s “relationship, particularly with Angus McQueen, was instrumental […] in developing our messaging” and agreed that LaPierre was “intimately involved” in the work that Ackerman McQueen did for the NRA. (p.30-31) Phillips said that “the advice and discussions he had with Angus McQueen were, you know, often kind of set the message that we would go forward with for a while.” (p.54)
  • Phillips testified to the degree to which LaPierre feared leaks at the NRA, recalling conversations with LaPierre about “a general feeling of concern about leaks, even from my — my department and my accountants […] mainly leaks to the press.” (p.34)
  • Phillips testified that due to security concerns, Wayne LaPierre’s travel documents and invoices were “maintained separate” from the NRA’s accounting department and only contained “limited information” like “the city pairs for the trips.” (p.244)
  • Phillips testified that Liberty University had been interested in establishing a Wayne LaPierre Second Amendment Center. (p.93)
  • Phillips testified that Dana Loesch had to be hired by the NRA through Ackerman McQueen because it “allowed her more freedom of speech and protect the NRA from what she might say.” (p.96)
  • Phillips testified that one of the purposes of NRATV was to be a tool for crisis communications in the event of a mass shooting or similar event. (p.193)