NEW YORK (NEWS10) — In a press conference Thursday, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit aimed at dissolving the National Rifle Association, the most influential pro-gun organization in the country.
According to the Office of the Attorney General, the lawsuit lays out years of illegal self-dealing that funded the lavish lifestyles of leaders of the powerful gun lobby. James says the organization “failed to carry out its stated mission for many years, and instead has operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse, and brazen illegality.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, charges the nonprofit organization with illegal conduct based on their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of their organization. Instead, according to James, members of the organization spent millions on personal use, like travel to the Bahamas, private jets, luxury black car services, and hunting safaris to Africa.
“The central figure behind this scheme,” James says, “was none other that Mr. Wayne Lapierre.”
The suit charges the NRA—as a whole, as well as Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell specifically—with mismanaging funds and ignoring state and federal law. James characterizes the actions of LaPierre, Frazer, Phillips, and Powell as “looting” and using the NRA’s assets as a “personal piggy bank.”
The NRA currently operates at a deficit, having lost $64 million in three years.
The suit alleges that the NRA signed contracts that resulted in significant financial gains for close associates and family, and appeared to award lucrative no-show contracts to ex-employees to buy their silence and loyalty. The investigation began in 2019, and the 18 causes of action in the suit include false reporting, improper expense documentation, improper wage reporting, improper income tax withholding, and waste of NRA assets.
The corruption was so broad that the Attorney General’s Office decided to push for dissolution. However, the suit includes other possible solutions, including the remaining LaPierre and Frazer from leadership positions, requiring all four to pay millions in restitution, and prohibiting them from serving on a nonprofit board in New York in the future.
No criminal charges are being pursued in this action, because of the jurisdiction of the Attorney General’s Office over nonprofits. James said that if her office uncovers criminal activity, it will be referred to Manhattan district attorneys.
Take a look at the lawsuit:
The NRA responded to the lawsuit by issuing the following statement;
“This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend,” says NRA President Carolyn Meadows. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle. 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.”
Meadows added, “As evidenced by the lawsuit filed by the NRA today against the NYAG, we not only will not shrink from this fight – we will confront it and prevail.”