New York Attorney General Letitia James announced on Thursday that she has filed a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, alleging widespread corruption and seeking to dissolve the country’s largest gun owner advocacy group.
James alleged that Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, as well as three other executives used the NRA as their “personal piggy bank,” making for more than $64 million in losses in three years.
Beyond removing the named executives, James said New York State would be forwarding the complaint to the Internal Revenue Service for the tax fraud the suit alleges, and seeking a court order dissolving the NRA entirely.
You can watch James’ news conference here, via New York State.
Here’s what you need to know:
James Said That Wayne LaPierre, Wilson ‘Woody’ Phillips, Joshua Powell & John Frazer Mismanaged the NRA’s Funds Through ‘Fraud & Abuse’
At a news conference Thursday, James said New York State would be charging LaPierre, former Treasurer and CGO Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff Joshua Powell and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer with using NRA funds to finance their own lavish lifestyles.
Powell and Phillips are no longer with the NRA, James said. The lawsuit seeks to ensure that none of the four defendants will serve on the board of a charity in New York State again, though.
The four men named diverted millions away from the NRA’s stated charitable mission by awarding contracts to those close to them, as well as “no-show” contracts to former employees in order to keep them quiet, James said.
The state wants to see the entire organization dissolved, “given the breadth and depth of corruption, illegal activities and brazen attempts to evade the lawn,” James added.
“It’s clear the NRA has been failing to carry out its stated mission for many, many years, instead operating as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality.”
The Lawsuit Alleges LaPierre Spent $3.6 Million of the NRA’s Money on Luxury Travel in 3 Years
LaPierre has run the day-to-day operations of the NRA for about 30 years, according to James, and in that time, he used the organization’s charitable funds — intended to promote gun safety and lobby for gun owners’ protections — for private luxury travel for himself and his wife, Susan.
In the lawsuit, James alleged that LaPierre used a private jet to visit the Bahamas with his family at least eight times in three years — adding up to about $500,000. An NRA vendor allowed LaPierre and his family to use a 107-foot yacht on those trips, she alleged.
James also alleged LaPierre took luxury hunting safaris to Africa as gifts from an NRA vendor and got over $1.2 million in expense reimbursements in four years, including for membership fees at golf clubs and hotels.
According to James, New York State had no choice but to seek the dissolution of the entire NRA, given how widespread the alleged financial impropriety has been..
“Because the corruption was so broad, it was critically important that one of the remedies we’re seeking is the dissolution of the NRA,” James told reporters at the news conference.
The NRA Responded, Saying the Suit Was a ‘Baseless, Premeditated Attack’ on the Organization & the Second Amendment
(1/3) NRA PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO NY AG:
This was a baseless, 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…
— NRA (@NRA) August 6, 2020
The NRA responded Thursday afternoon via Twitter, calling New York State’s lawsuit a “baseless, 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 spokesperson wrote. “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.”
In April 2019, James announced that the state was probing the NRA’s finances, the Associated Press reported. At the time, the gun-rights organization was also undergoing a power struggle, with Oliver North, of Iran-Contra infamy, tried to oust LaPierre as CEO, then resigned as the organization’s president, the outlet reported.
By Tweet, the NRA also announced that it had filed its own lawsuit against James.
“Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defense of political freedom,” the spokesperson wrote. “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.”
At Thursday’s news conference, James was asked by a reporter about the possibility of the lawsuit being viewed as political. She dismissed the concern, saying, “the law and the facts” guided the state investigation.
The NRA Has Endorsed President Trump for Re-Election & Trump Said Thursday the Lawsuit Was a ‘Very Terrible Thing’ & Suggested the Group Move to Texas
The NRA generally endorses and contributes money to Republican candidates favorable to their cause of fewer and less restrictive gun laws, donating about $1.4 million in the 2020 campaign cycle alone so far, according to Open Secrets.
And, on July 16 the organization officially endorsed Trump for re-election in an open letter posted to Twitter. The organization praised Trump for declaring gun stores nationwide “critical infrastructure,” allowing them to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.
“You promised to defend the Second Amendment and stand tall for the constitutional freedoms in which our members believe,” the letter read. “You recognize the Second Amendment is about liberties that belong to all Americans. You have delivered on your promise in extraordinary ways … We are proud to support you and the promise if your second term.”
Asked by reporters Thursday afternoon for his thoughts on the New York State lawsuit, Trump called it a “terrible thing,” in video posted by Mediaite. Trump also suggested the NRA move its offices to Texas.
“I just heard about that and it’s a very terrible thing that just happened,” Trump said. “I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life, and I told them that for a long time. I think … Texas would be a great place for it. This has been going on for a long time. They’ve been absolutely decimated by the cost of that lawsuit and it’s very sad, but I would suggest that’s what they should be doing.”