UPDATE: The NRA has filed a countersuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James accusing her of defamation and violating the group’s First Amendment rights, Fox News reported.
James “made the political prosecution of the NRA a central campaign theme” during her 2018 election bid, it says.
Original story below:
After an 18-month investigation targeting the National Rifle Association, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office had filed suit seeking the NRA‘s complete dissolution for serving as a “personal piggy bank” for top executives.
“It’s clear that the NRA has been failing to carry out its stated mission for many many years and instead has operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality,” James said in an often melodramatic announcement Thursday.
“… Today we send a strong and loud message that no one is above the law, not even the NRA, one of the most powerful organizations in this country,” she continued.
James, a radical Democrat, testily denied to reporters that the probe was politically motivated.
“This has nothing to do with my personal opinion with regards to gun violence,” she claimed during the press conference in response to a reporter’s question.
“This has to do with the fact that … the NRA as a corporation, unfortunately, did not follow not-for-profit law in the state of New York,” she said, “and as a result of that they should be held accountable.”
While insisting also that her well-documented opposition to Second Amendment rights was immaterial to the investigation or the case, James acknowledged that one of only two precedents for the demanding that the organization be terminated was a prior suit brought against President Donald Trump’s family business.
“It’s not a question of a moment that I’ve been waiting for,” she said. “… We came to the conclusion based upon our thorough investigation that enough was enough and we needed to step in and dissolve this corporation, just as we did with the Trump Foundation.”
James prominently has backed prior suits targeting both gun rights and the president’s finances with mixed results.
However, her current case focuses narrowly on the actions of four top NRA executives: CEO Wayne LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former CFO Wilson “Woody” Phillips and former Chief of Staff Joshua Powell.
She launched the probe only a few months after assuming office in January 2019.
Shortly thereafter, the NRA’s internal disputes over its finances became public when its then-president, Oliver North, departed and distanced himself from the group’s operations by personally denouncing LaPierre.
North alleged in his exit letter that LaPierre had funneled more than $200,000 into personal expenditures.
According to James, though, the executives’ overall mismanagement had “contributed to the loss of more than $63 million.”
That included LaPierre’s use of $3.6 million over a two-year period on lavish charter-jet trips to the Bahamas, African safaris and other family vacations.
James also accused LaPierre on spending $1.2 million in NRA funds on gifts to friends and vendors, golf-club memberships and hotels, as well as securing lucrative consulting contracts that “resulted in little if any actual work.”
James alleged that the executives had concealed their slush expenses through the organization’s advertising company, Ackerman McQueen, which paid them out and then re-billed the NRA in one lump sum “without any details of the nature or purpose of the expense.”
She said that the NRA had paid the firm more than $70 million.
According to James, the lawsuit included 18 causes of action, among which were:
- failing to comply with state laws governing charitable organizations
- false reporting of financial details to the state
- improper expense documentation
- improper wage reporting
In addition to dissolving the NRA, the civil suit was seeking financial restitution and penalties for the four defendants and a removal from their leadership positions, as well as a ban from serving in future leadership positions for nonprofit organizations in New York.
James insisted that despite the actions centering on only four of its leaders, the NRA could not continue to exist because “the corruption was so broad and because of the level of waste and because they have basically destroyed all of the assets.”