Following an 18-month investigation into the National Rifle Association (NRA), New York Attorney General Letitia James took action on Thursday to dissolve the organization, which she argued is “fraught with fraud and abuse.” In a press conference, James announced that she was filing a lawsuit against the NRA along with four individuals affiliated with the organization, including Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive. Others named in the lawsuit are Wilson Phillips, Joshua Powell, and John Frazer.
James and the lawsuit filed in the New York Supreme Court allege that the NRA and its leaders have, for years, “instituted a culture of self-dealing mismanagement,” thus abusing the organization’s non-profit status. James expressed concern that, as an organization notorious for its significant political influence, the NRA has gone “unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets.”
Citing specific examples of such abuses of power, James said that the findings of her office’s investigation suggest that the organization’s leaders violated New York’s laws governing nonprofits by “diverting tens of millions of dollars from the group through excessive expenses and contracts that benefited relatives or close associates.” She alleged that funds from the organization were used to pay for luxuries including leaders’ trips, private jets, and dining expenses. It is estimated that LaPierre alone spent over $500,000 on vacations and other related luxuries. The lawsuit argues that in just three years, the organization likely lost $64 million due to mismanaged funds.
In response to James’ press conference and the lawsuit, the NRA issued a statement claiming that Thursday’s events reflected a “baseless premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend.” The NRA has since filed a countersuit, in which it alleges that New York’s lawsuit infringes upon the organization’s right to free speech.
James’ announcement has returned the attention of the media and voters alike to issues of gun violence and gun rights in the United States with just three months until the November election. As such, since the announcement, the New York suit has received praise and criticism along party lines.
In a tweet, President Donald Trump criticized the New York lawsuit, suggesting that the suit was a political play by the “radical left.” Conversely, Kamala Harris, a contender for the Democratic nomination for Vice President, tweeted, “The NRA bought the president and promotes members of Congress that turn a blind eye to the gun violence epidemic. It takes leaders with courage to stand up to them.”
Later in the day, March for Our Lives – an organization headed by young activists who survived a 2018 school shooting Parkland, Florida – launched a digital and television ad intended to air in battleground states and target young voters. The ad calls on young people to continue playing an active role in the movement against gun violence.
According to NPR, “seeking to dissolve the NRA is the most aggressive sanction James could have sought” against the organization, which is based out of New York. James’ action was mimicked by the attorney general of Washington, D.C., who similarly filed a lawsuit against the NRA on Thursday.
Sources: NPR 8/6/2020; NBC News 8/6/2020; CNN Politics 8/6/2020; The Wall Street Journal 8/7/2020; Twitter 8/6/2020