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New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit Demanding Dissolution of NRA

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New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit Demanding Dissolution of NRA

2020-08-07 17:57:22

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Letitia James (Image source: Screenshot)

The National Rifle Association had much influence in the 2016 presidential election, making Second Amendment rights one of the key elements of Donald Trump's campaign and sinking a lot of money into it. Not much has been said about those rights this time. One reason is that there are other things being debated. The other is that the organization is wounded after multiple legal challenges and court cases.

Compounding that, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to completely dissolve the organization. This is a move reminiscent of her actions to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation after an investigation into the charity's finances.

Similarly. James has overseen an 18-month investigation of the NRA, where evidence showed the organization is "fraught with fraud and abuse."

James filed a lawsuit that stated she found financial misconduct in the millions of dollars. This contributed to a loss of more than $64 million over three years. She alleges in the suit that top NRA executives misused charitable funds for personal gain, awarded contracts to friends and family, and ensured loyalty by giving contracts to former employees.

The New York attorney general has jurisdiction over the NRA because it's registered in New York. However, Trump attempted to move it to Texas a year ago, around the same time he was moving from his home state in New York and relocating to Florida. He is once again suggesting the same thing: for the NRA to move to Texas.

In a statement, the NRA said James's legal action is political and a "baseless premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend. ...We not only will not shrink from this fight — we will confront it and prevail."

"The NRA's influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets," said James 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."

Named in the complaint is the NRA, as well as Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former chief financial officer Woody Phillips, and former chief of staff Joshua Powell.

Alleged in the complaint are dozens of examples of financial malfeasance, including NRA funds being used for vacations, private jets, and pricey meals.

James' office said in a statement that the executives of the charitable organization "instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight" that contributed to "the waste and loss of millions in assets."

The dissolution of the NRA in its entirety is sought in the lawsuit. It also asks the court to order LaPierre and other current and former executives to pay back unlawful profits. It wants LaPierre and Frazer to be removed from leadership at the NRA and for the four named individuals to be prevented from ever serving on the board of a New York charity again.

LaPierre had headed the NRA for nearly 30 years. He's accused in the suit of using charitable funds for his personal gain. This includes a post-employment contract that is valued at more than $17 million that the NRA's board of directors did not approve.

Also alleged in the suit is that LaPierre received more than $1.2 million in expense reimbursements over four years. This includes gifts for friends, travel expenses, and golf club and hotel memberships. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were used on private plane trips. Sometimes extended family were on the trips, and LaPierre was not.

He was also gifted an African safari trip he took with his wife. It was a gift from an NRA vendor. More than 3.6 million was spent on luxury black car services and travel consultants over just the past two years.

If anyone tried to report LaPierre, he retaliated against them, according to the suit.

The lawsuit alleges that Phillips, who managed the financial operations of the organization, lied on financial disclosure forms. Just before he retired, he set up a contract for himself worth $1.8 million for consulting services. A deal worth more than $1 million was directed to his girlfriend, according to the lawsuit.

Powell's salary more than tripled not long after he'd been there just two years, according to the suit, from $250,000 to $800,000. It's alleged that he also directed charitable funds to be used to benefit his family. He approved of a $5 million consulting contract, who, in turn, hired his wife on a $30,000 monthly consulting fee through the NRA. His father was hired as a photographer by an NRA vendor, earning him $90,000, which was billed to the NRA.

Frazer is not alleged to have committed financial misconduct, but they did not comply with board governance procedures and failed to ensure the NRA was in compliance with whistleblower laws. He also repeatedly certified false or misleading annual statements.

In a separate case, the District of Columbia attorney general filed a lawsuit as well on Thursday. The NRA Foundation is targeted by Attorney General Karl. A. Racine. He alleges the foundation violated local laws by putting the corporation's interests ahead of its charitable purposes.

The NRA was already in financial trouble before this. A secret recording from an NRA board meeting in April showed LaPierre telling the audience that the NRA had spent $100 million on its legal troubles. 

And this could be why Donald Trump wants to move the NRA to Texas. When the organization was profitable, it spent tens of millions of dollars supporting him, but it doesn't appear it will be in a position to do the same this year.

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