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New York AG Sues NRA Over Fraud in Bid to Shut Down Organization

President Trump Delivers Remarks at the NRA Annual Meeting. President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Friday, April 26, 2019, at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis, Ind. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
President Trump Delivers Remarks at the NRA Annual Meeting. President Donald J. Trump addresses his remarks Friday, April 26, 2019, at the National Rifle Association annual convention in Indianapolis, Ind. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets.”

New York is taking on the National Rifle Association as Attorney General Letitia James sued the NRA over fraud. Her office announced the suit calling for the group’s dissolution.

To justify putting the weight of New York behind a lawsuit against the largest gun rights groups, James cited “years of self-dealing and illegal conduct that violate New York’s charities law and undermine its own mission.”

In addition to siphoning donations into their own coffers, James accused NRA executives of awarding contracts based on nepotism and as a way of buying the silence and loyalty of former employees, The New York Times reported.

“It’s clear that the N.R.A. 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. 

The lawsuit also named several NRA leaders as defendants in an attempt to reclaim “tens of millions” in restitution. They include Wayne LaPierre, chief executive, John Frazer, general counsel, Woody Phillips, former chief financial officer, and Josh Powell, a former chief of staff to LaPierre. 

Allegations Questionable Spending

The attorney general’s lawsuit alleges LaPierre spent a considerable amount of the group’s money on lavish trips. They included ia eight trips to the Bahamas via private jet, $3.6 million on travel agencies, and the “use of a 107-foot yacht,” which a vendor “gifted” him.

The lawsuit also alleges the organization falsified tax reports to New York and the IRS. All told, James’ inquiry alleges NRA executives misused $64 million over three years.

“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. “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.”

The NRA is registered as a nonprofit in New York, putting it at the mercy of the state’s laws. However, a similar lawsuit was also filed in the Superior Court for the Washington, D.C., district, Reuters reported.

A Fight Long Coming

The group immediately filed a countersuit in Albany, arguing the state’s charges infringe on the group’s First Amendment rights. 

“This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend,” said Carolyn Meadows, NRA president. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle.”

Pssst, while you're here...

James’ battle against the NRA began when she ran for the position of attorney general in 2018, calling the group a “terrorist organization.” The investigation into the group’s financial dealings began in February 2019. Executives for the group preyed upon Jame’s perceived predisposition against it by labeling the lawsuit as politically motivated. 

“Everybody knows we were singled out,” LaPierre said last year as the investigation was getting underway. “Everybody knows that it’s politics. Everybody knows why it’s really happening. And it’s wrong.”

Meadows also defended the group, calling James’ suit “a power grab by a political opportunist” and said “we not only will not shrink from this fight — we will confront it and prevail.”

James’ suit over fraud is only the latest in a string of dismal events for the NRA. Aside from the alleged financial misconduct, the group has faced other monetary setbacks, starting with a mass exodus of donors who aren’t fond of LaPierre. his top brass, and rumors concerning organizational infighting, The New York Times reported. 

Exacerbating problems, the group has been forced to fight costly legal battle., notably against its former advertising agency. Finally, the coronavirus crisis has dimmed hopes of the group regaining its financial footing this year.

The President Can Empathize  

The NRA is a major conservative backer and even amid its financial and legal troubles, the group is on pace to spend the most money on political campaigns since 2002. According to Open Secrets, a donation tracker created by The Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has already spent $1,390,274 this year. Contributions directly to Republican Party candidates currently total $372,819 compared to only $2,853 for Democrats.

President Donald Trump commented on New York suing the NRA over fraud on Thursday, The Hill reported.

“I just heard about that. That’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’ve told them that for a long time.”

Trump himself has recently been on the receiving end for a similar lawsuit against the now defunct Trump Foundation, which was also registered in New York. James’ predecessor successfully sued the foundation over a misuse of charitable donations and secured its closure.

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Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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