New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a bombshell lawsuit in New York state court seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association and alleging millions in donor funds were diverted under the leadership of NRA president Wayne LaPierre
The NRA “operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality,” Attorney General James said in a news conference
“For these years of fraud and misconduct we are seeking an order to dissolve the NRA in its entirety,” James said.
New York’s lawsuit, filed in state court in Manhattan, is a civil complaint, but James said the investigation was continuing and she expected criminal referrals would be made if warranted by evidence.
The NRA is the United States’ largest organization of gun owners and for decades has been a powerful supporter of Republican politicians and an effective opponent in the US Congress of Democrat-backed gun control proposals.
Headquartered in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, the NRA is a non-profit organization incorporated in New York state. Attorney General James began investigating the NRA more than a year ago when accusations surfaced about misuse of donor funds by NRA president LaPierre.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in Manhattan after an 18-month investigation, highlighted misspending and self-dealing allegations that have roiled the NRA and its longtime leader LaPierre, in recent years — from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17m post-employment contract for himself.
Simultaneously, the Washington, DC, attorney general sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization designed to provide programs for firearm safety, marksmanship and hunting safety, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by its top executives.
The troubles, which James said were long cloaked by loyal lieutenants and a pass-through payment arrangement with a vendor, started to come to light as the NRA’s deficit piled up and it struggled to find its footing after a spate of mass shootings in the US eroded support for its pro-gun agenda.The organization went from a nearly $28m surplus in 2015 to a $36m deficit in 2018.
James, a Democrat, argued that the organization’s prominence and cozy political relationships had lulled it into a sense of invincibility and enabled a culture where non-profit rules were routinely flouted and state and federal laws were violated.
Even the NRA’s own bylaws and employee handbook were ignored, she said.
“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 statement announcing the lawsuit.
“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.”
A spokesman for the NRA’s legal team had no immediate comment, according to the Reuters news agency.
In addition to LaPierre, the New York lawsuit names NRA executives chief of staff Wilson Phillips, general counsel John Frazer and operations director Joshua Powell as defendants.
James is taking aim at the NRA after her office last year dismantled President Donald Trump’s charitable foundation and fined him $2m to settle allegations he used donations meant for worthy causes to further his own business and political interests.
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