New York Attorney General Letitia James is making good on her campaign promise to take down the National Rifle Association (NRA).
James announced today that her office has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA as a nonprofit in New York, and has charged four current and former NRA leaders, including current Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, with failing to manage the organization’s funds and violating numerous state and federal nonprofit laws.
In total, James has accused the NRA and its leaders of diverting more than $64 million from is charitable mission over the last three years to personal use and lucrative contracts for family members and friends.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James said in a press release. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”
The NRA responded to James’ suit on Twitter, calling it a “baseless and premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment Freedoms it fights to defend.”
“You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle,” the NRA said. “It’s a transparent attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda. This has been a power grab by a political opportunist – a desperate move that is part of a rank political vendetta.”
“Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defense of political and constitutional freedom,” the statement continued.
(3/3) Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defense of political and constitutional freedom.— NRA (@NRA) August 6, 2020
As evidenced by the lawsuit filed by the NRA today against the NY AG, we not only will not shrink from this fight – we will confront it and prevail.
The NRA has also filed a suit of its own, claiming that James targeted the NRA for political reasons and hasn’t treated the gun-rights group fairly.
“Despite hopes that playing by the rules would procure a just outcome, the NRA has not been treated fairly by James’s office,” the 19-page suit states. “The New York Democratic Party political machine seeks to harass, defund, and dismantle the NRA because of what it believes and what it says.”
James hasn’t been shy about her personal feelings about the NRA. During her campaign in 2018, she vowed to “use the constitutional power as an attorney general to regulate charities, that includes the NRA, to investigate their legitimacy.”
She also called the NRA a “terrorist organization” in a 2018 interview with Ebony Magazine.
President Trump encouraged the NRA to move to Texas:
“I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life,” he said. “And I’ve told them that for a long time. I think they should move to Texas – Texas would be a great state or to another state of their choosing – but I would say that Texas would be a great place and an appropriate place for the NRA.”
Jaames’ 169-page suit (published below) lays out a variety of alleged illegal activities by LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer.
“The lawsuit alleges that the four men instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent. They overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favored board members, employees, and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interests,” James’ office said in a statement.
In particular, the suit accuses LaPierre of using NRA donations to fund private plane rides for his family on trips unrelated to the organization’s work, taking trips to the Bahamas on the NRA’s dime, failing to report lucrative gifts from NRA vendors, and spending millions on unwanted travel consultants.
The suit also outlines how LaPierre used the NRA’s long-time marketing agency, Ackerman McQueen, to pay for non-contractual, out-of-pocket expenses for LaPierre and other NRA executives and pass those expenses through to the NRA.
Along with dissolving the NRA, James suit asks the court to order LaPierre, Phillips, Powell, and Frazer to make full restitution for funds they allegedly unlawfully profited and salaries earned while employees; pay penalties; and recover illegal and unauthorized payments to the four individuals. She also asks the court to immediately remove LaPierre and Frazer from NRA’s leadership.
Experts speaking with The Hill said the lawsuit will likely take years to fully play out, and the associated costs and potential rulings could put the NRA’s future in jeopardy.