New York Attorney General Letitia James took on the National Rifle Association (NRA) on Thursday morning, filing a lawsuit to dissolve the gun rights organization for years of financial corruption and mismanagement.
James' lawsuit was filed in the New York County Supreme Court and stated the senior leadership of the 149-year-old organization has spent years stealing millions from the charitable arm of the group. She said the leaders named in the suit "instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight."
The NRA's Wayne LaPierre allegedly "spent more than $3.6 million on luxury black car services and travel consultants in the last two years," according to New York Attorney General Letitia James. https://t.co/B50Ds8Qo2l
— Eric Hananoki (@ehananoki) August 6, 2020
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets. 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 to ABC News.
The attorney general's office has spent 18 months investigating the organization and looking into the actions of CEO Wayne LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former Chief Financial Officer Woody Phillips and former Chief of Staff Joshua Powell, according to NPR.
The lawsuit states LaPierre gave himself a $17 million post-employment contract and used NRA accounts for vacations to the Bahamas, Nebraska and Europe.
The attorney general said on Twitter the financial misconduct of the four men "contributed to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA."
In addition to the New York lawsuit, the attorney general of Washington D.C. filed a lawsuit against the NRA Foundation, an independent group incorporated in D.C., reports NBC Washington.
"Charitable organizations function as public trusts — and District law requires them to use their funds to benefit the public, not to support political campaigns, lobbying, or private interests. With this lawsuit, we aim to recover donated funds that the NRA Foundation wasted," Attorney General Karl Racine said in a statement.
"District nonprofits should be on notice that the Office of the Attorney General will file suit if we find evidence of illegal behavior," Racine added.
For years, the four men hired their girlfriends, friends and family members while spending millions on private trips and other personal expenses, the suit alleges.
The four defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including:
➡️trips for them and their families to the Bahamas & safaris in Africa
➡️and other private travel
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) August 6, 2020
The NRA and President Donald Trump have both responded to the news. In a statement on Twitter, the organization called the lawsuit "a baseless, premeditated attack" and said it plans to fight it.
(3/3) Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defense of political and constitutional freedom.
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.
— NRA (@NRA) August 6, 2020
On top of the more lurid notes of the lawsuit, James said the NRA had committed a number of violations regarding charitable status, false reporting on IRS and state filings and improper income tax withholding.
The group has been beset by infighting since it played a pivotal financial role in Trump's victorious 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times reported. The NRA spent millions on his campaign and helped propel him to the presidency, according to Fortune.
But leaks and disgruntled employees revealed organizationwide concerns about how LaPierre and the others were spending on themselves, ABC reported last year.
Financial mismanagement cost the organization millions and raised concerns that led to an internal revolt. LaPierre managed to maintain control of the organization but is now facing multiple lawsuits, according to The Times.
In April, NPR obtained a clip of LaPierre at an NRA board meeting admitting the legal fees were taking a toll on the group's finances.
"The cost that we bore was probably about a hundred-million-dollar hit in lost revenue and real cost to this association in 2018 and 2019. I mean, that's huge," LaPierre said.