New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Thursday to dissolve the National Rifle Association, accusing the powerful gun rights lobby of engaging in a pattern of self-dealing to benefit its leaders.
In the hours before her press conference, there was wild speculation of what she planned, as her office had informed members of the media of a pending “major national announcement.”
The lawsuit — read it here — singles out the longtime leader of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, as well as current and former senior executives Wilson “Woody” Phillips, Joshua Powell and John Frazier. The suit claims that LaPierre has diverted millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization, at the cost of core services like gun safety, education and training. Among other things, the lawsuit claims that LaPierre and his associates used NRA reserves for personal use, including trips to the Bahamas, private jets and expensive meals.
“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,” James said in a statement.
The lawsuit claims that LaPierre secured a $17 million post employment contract for himself, without board approval.
The NRA operates as a 501(c)(4) non-profit charitable organization in the state.
The lawsuit also claims that the NRA’s audit committee failed to respond to whistleblowers and was negligent in its stewardship of the organization’s assets. It contends that when board members challenged LaPierre over the financial governance of the NRA, he retaliated and turned the board against the dissidents. NRA President Oliver North was forced out in April 2019 after he called for a review of the organization’s finances.
In a statement, NRA President Carolyn Meadows called the lawsuit a “baseless, pre-meditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend.”
She accused James of timing the lawsuit to coincide with the 2020 election, and called it a “transparent attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda.”
James also is seeking to remove LaPierre and Fraizer from senior leadership and to pay restitution.
The lawsuit notes that the NRA went from a surplus of $27,802,714 in 2015 to a net deficit of $36,276,779 in 2018. The organization has gone through layoffs this year, while some donors have revolted.
The investigation started in February, 2019.
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