NRA v. Ackerman, Virginia

Deposition of NRA President Carolyn D. Meadows

January 29, 2020

Filing Summary

On January 29, 2020, NRA president and longtime board member Carolyn D. Meadows sat for a deposition in the NRA’s litigation with its former vendor, Ackerman McQueen. That deposition was made public in a late December 2021 filing by Ackerman. NRA Watch reviewed the transcript and highlighted some testimony of note below.

Key Points

  • When asked if it “would be appropriate or inappropriate for the NRA to pay” for personal expenses, such as “the clothing for a board member,” Meadows stated that it would be “inappropriate” (p. 31).
  • After explaining that she had been in the habit of keeping records of phone calls and meetings, including those that might be relevant to this case, Meadows states that she “destroyed them” in 2019 after being “told they could be subpoenaed and used” (p. 35) by NRA counsel John Frazer. She contends that they were her “personal notes,” or her “opinion of the conversation,” (p. 37-38), even if the discussion centered on NRA business. “Some I shredded. And some I actually burned” (p. 40). Later, Meadows contends that the documents included “personal, sensitive information that actually would have been integrated with NRA and maybe other boards that I felt like I should not turn over” (p. 355).
  • When asked if she was aware of “any disclosures that the NRA has to make to the New York State authorities about…related-party contracts?” Meadows states, “That is not part of my job—at all” (p. 50).
  • Meadows states that as a member of the Audit Committee, she should have read the contract known as the “Services Agreement” between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen but was never given a copy. Why not? “I don’t know” (p. 69). According to her account, Charles Cotton, the head of the Audit Committee, also asked for a copy of the Services Agreement but was denied. After admitting this, the NRA’s lawyers asked Meadows to step outside because “I think we are getting confused,” but Meadows clarifies that she understood what was being discussed (p. 70-72).
  • While she could not recall specifics of a closed meeting in September 2018, Meadows agrees that the Audit Committee approved of Colonel North’s “continued participation in his contract with Ackerman McQueen.” (p. 86-87).
  • Meadows states that she learned of Joshua Powell’s “unusual business dealings” only after he joined the NRA but believes “leadership should have been” aware of his background before hiring him (p. 88-89). 
  • According to Meadows, “Mr. Powell did not tell us. He didn’t tell the Audit Committee” (p. 92) that McKenna & Associates, a consulting and fundraising company, employed Powell’s wife. 
  • Meadows states that the Audit Committee was also unaware that Jim Powell Photography, a company run by Joshua Powell’s father, had billed the NRA for $93,000. But, according to Meadows, the committee did not need to be notified because the invoice had not “been over [$]100,000” (p. 93).
  • According to Meadows, the Audit Committee approved Oliver North’s contract with Ackerman McQueen on “good faith” (p. 95). When asked if anyone else associated with the NRA, including its lawyers, was able to review North’s contract, Meadows replies, “I believe they did not review the contract” (p. 96). Meadows contends that the committee did not see the contract before approving it: “It was discussed…they didn’t have it but still approved” (p. 96).
  • According to Meadows, only one person questioned choosing Bill Brewer’s law firm for representation: “The only person I knew that questioned it was Ollie North” (p. 109).
  • Meadows admits that she signed onto a February 26, 2019, letter written by North to LaPierre questioning Bill Brewer’s expenses and contract, stating that no invoices after that date be paid in order to maintain compliance with New York law. Why? “I agreed that more information should be forthcoming. Later I would not have signed this” (p. 117). 
  • On March 22, 2019, North sent a letter to Bill Brewer, asking to see engagement letters for each matter that Brewer’s law firm was handling for the NRA. Meadows claims that she approved of having her signature on the letter “[o]n the day, March 22nd,” “[b]ut I later rescinded it” (p. 125). Meadows states that North “called me. I was in rural Alabama on the way to my granddaughter’s wedding. We were cut off three times. I could not understand. I didn’t, based on what he said to me, I said he could use the electronic signature. By the following Monday when I had it read to me, I talked to John Frazer and asked that my signature be removed and it was done” (p. 125). Meadows contends that North did not need to see that information: “We have legal people in-house, treasurers…and that would be their job to do this” (p. 127).
  • North later sent a memo signed by himself, Meadows, and Richard Childress to the Audit Committee, asking that it conduct an outside independent review of the Brewer law firm’s fees and expenses, but Meadows contends that she did not agree with the memo: “We already had outside auditors; it was redundant” (p. 130). She later had her signature rescinded. “I didn’t agree with it. Also it was misrepresented to me” (p. 131).
  • Meadows contends that while LaPierre “didn’t agree with” her signatures appearing on the February and March letters and thanked her for removing them, he did not ask her explicitly to rescind them. “Absolutely not, no” (p. 134).
  • Meadows states that every quote of hers in the press was written by NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam: “[I]t has always been Andrew” (p. 139).
  • According to Meadows, during a luncheon among NRA executives at the 2019 NRA show on April 24, 2019, Millie Hallow left to take a call and “came back into the meeting, said the call was from Dan Boren, that he had said…that Wayne LaPierre needed to resign, step down, and that if he did not, Ackerman McQueen was prepared, within the next two to three hours, to list very damaging information. It would talk about finances, and personal things related to them” (p. 162). LaPierre “left the meeting. And the meeting essentially broke up after that without going through the normal procedure” (p. 163).
  • After hearing the news, Meadows states that she “questioned Ollie and I asked if he was a part of that, if he was aware of it, and, if he agreed with what Dan Boren said in reference to Wayne LaPierre resigning. His answer was ‘Not today.’ And, Richard Childress, I asked Richard, ‘Do you agree?’ He didn’t say yes or no. His answer was ‘Well, every man has his day” (p. 164-165).
  • Meadows affirms that she talked to LaPierre after the Dan Boren call, and they discussed “whether or not a coup was coming about. If there would be a vote at the board meeting to remove him. And, that it would be wise of us to get in touch with board members that would support Wayne” (p. 171). How was LaPierre feeling? According to Meadows, “Disappointment. Hurt” (p. 172).
  • Meadows states that at 2:58 p.m. that day, she joined a call (and took notes of the call) between Oliver North and Millie Hallow where North “went into issues of his clothing to Josh. He talked about Josh; he talked about Tyler spending millions of dollars or half a million dollars, I’m not sure, but like millions of dollars on extravagant trips” (p. 175). “He said the financial problems are just out of hand…And the sexual charges against Josh, the excessive shopping, and the millions Tyler had spent, excessive travel, and the apartment for his niece which, in fact, was not his niece, but, that was what he said. And, he said if Wayne withdraws his lawsuit and resigns, and if I am still president, I can make it well-worth his time money wise, his retirement would be good…And, he said the window may close quickly. And he said Ackerman McQueen in the next two or three hours will be releasing damaging information. And [Millie Hallow] then for whatever reason, took him off speaker. And there was more conversation that I don’t know” (p. 177-178).
  • Meadows affirms that North never gave any indication that he had talked or coordinated with anyone at Ackerman McQueen to come up with an exit strategy for LaPierre (p. 182).
  • After that call, she states that she and Hallow went back into the common room to discuss everything with NRA executives, including LaPierre and Sandy Froman, who “said that sounds like extortion. And we didn’t dwell on that. But by then we were in serious discussion about the…vote coming up at the board meeting to replace Wayne. And we were getting serious then about rallying our troops, so to speak.” (p. 184).
  • Did the Board of Directors ever have a vote regarding LaPierre? According to Meadows, “No. It did not come up. Ollie North forces didn’t have the votes and they knew” (p. 189-190).
  • Instead, North was not reelected, and Meadows contends that she was “drafted” to become the next NRA president. “A committee of board members just sat down with me and said, ‘You are it. In this time in, what is going on, you are our person’” (p. 191).
  • Was the board aware of LaPierre allegedly spending $276,000 in clothing at the Zegna store in Beverly Hills? According to Meadows, “The number, the dollar amount I believe they would have known about. Perhaps not where. I just don’t recall that” (p. 206).
  • Meadows affirms that not only was she aware of LaPierre using an Ackerman McQueen credit card to buy Zegna suits, but when asked why someone would do that, she states, “Why would you not?” According to Meadows, it was OK “[b]ecause Ackerman McQueen made the appointment, told him to go there to be fitted for clothes” (p. 206-208). “Charlton Heston had even recommended that Wayne go to his clothier” (p. 209). Later, Meadows states that LaPierre “didn’t even see the bill. And he told me that…[s]ometime in the past year” (p. 285).
  • Regarding NRA board counsel Steve Hart, Meadows alleges that “In calls to me, if they were made late in the day, his speech would often be slurred. I don’t know that he was drinking. But it sure sounded like it” (p. 228).
  • Meadows also questioned Hart’s loyalty: “Toward the end of his employment with NRA, it became apparent to me that he was not looking out for the best interests of NRA, but, in fact, for Ollie North” (p. 229). Meadows states that Hart “talked badly about Brewer. Started talking badly about Wayne” and “although he recommended the Brewer firm to Wayne LaPierre for employment, he…said that [Brewer] was charging too much, and that he thought he should go” (p. 229).
  • Meadows states that she met with Chris Cox and LaPierre at around 4 p.m. on April 24, 2019, hours after Dan Boren’s call with Millie Hallow. According to Meadows, Cox “pretty much parroted what Dan Boren had said earlier in the day, and what Ollie North had said. And for about 25 minutes, he was telling Wayne why he should resign. And that if he didn’t, everything that he had done in his 38 years at NRA would be smeared in every paper in the country. And…his family would be humiliated” (p. 242).
  • Meadows contends that Cox was not pressured or forced to leave. Instead, he “chose to” resign “[b]ecause the scheme he had been involved in failed” (p. 243).
  • Meadows claims that, despite being on the Audit Committee, she was unaware of the NRA hiring a company called Forensic Risk Alliance for over $300,000 in early 2019 to examine Ackerman McQueen’s books (p. 274). She did hear that Ackerman was not providing records at first, but “I would say in April of 2019 we did get records to look at” (p. 275)
  • Meadows states that she did not make any attempt as NRA president to find out who leaked the information about Wayne LaPierre’s expenses. However, she believes news of his spending hurt the organization, calling it “[b]ad publicity” (p. 297)
  • Regarding Dan Boren, Meadows states, “I have no idea why he did what he did. I think he doesn’t love his country and NRA like I did or he would not have done it” (p. 297).
  • Regarding Oliver North, Meadows states, “I would say he got greedy, and wanted to change rules of NRA and have a paid presidency,” and that “he doesn’t love NRA like I do” (p. 298). She states that she thought North should not have been paid: “He is 75 years old. If he doesn’t have money by now…” (p. 300).
    • Later, she admits that she revoked the approval for Oliver North’s contract “[b]ecause I thought he had been disloyal to NRA. And I didn’t think he was deserving of it” (p. 316).
  • Meadows states that Richard Childress left the NRA board “because of the nature of his business. He had a threat from one of his sponsors. And which he had said that he expected. And he said that he would still remain true to the Second Amendment, which he has” (p. 318). She contends that John Fodus also left the board “because he is a fundraiser. He said that he felt he could raise more money for NRA by not being a board member” (p. 318-319).
  • Meadows states that Joshua Powell has not been fired or put on leave but is instead on “paid vacation” (p. 323) as of this deposition.