New York state’s attorney general sued to dissolve the National Rifle Association on Thursday, alleging senior leaders of the non-profit group diverted millions of dollars for personal use and to buy the silence and loyalty of former employees.
The lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court by Attorney General Letitia James alleges NRA leaders paid for family trips to the Bahamas, private jets and expensive meals that contributed to a $64 million reduction in the NRA’s balance sheet in three years, turning a surplus into a deficit.
James alleged in a statement that NRA leaders “used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use,” failing to comply with the NRA’s own internal policies in addition to state and federal law.
The mismanagement shaved $64 million worth of assets off the NRA’s balance sheet in three years, the suit says.
In announcing the lawsuit, James told reporters the NRA “has operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality.” She added, “no one is above the law.”
The confrontation pits James, a Democrat, against the largest and most powerful gun organization in the United States, one that is closely aligned with President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
The NRA branded the lawsuit a “baseless, premeditated attack” and a “power grab” tied to the Nov. 3 U.S. election.
“We not only will not shrink from this fight â€“ we will confront it and prevail,” NRA President Carolyn Meadows said in a statement.
Trump swiftly branded the lawsuit “a very terrible thing,” suggesting to reporters the group ought to register in the much more gun-friendly state of Texas or in “another state of their choosing.”
The NRA, which teaches gun safety in addition to advocating laws making it easier for Americans to own guns and ammunition, is subject to New York law because it is registered as a non-profit organization in New York, where it conducts most of its financial transactions.
At the same time, the attorney general for Washington, D.C., filed suit in the district’s Superior Court against the NRA and its foundation, alleging the misuse of charitable funds and wasteful spending.
The actions are certain to further polarize a country where the NRA is revered by conservatives as a champion of the U.S. Constitutional right to keep and bear arms and vilified by liberals as an enabler of rampant gun violence.
‘WE SEEK TO DISSOLVE THE NRA’
Briefing reporters, James denied the suit was motivated by the NRA’s support for Trump. But her written statement said the NRA’s power had gone unchecked for decades, “which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA.”
The NRA’s physical headquarters are in Fairfax, Virginia, about 20 miles (30 km) west of Washington, D.C.
New York state and the NRA have tangled before.
The state has taken legal action against NRA-branded insurance policies sold to gun owners, and the NRA is suing the state for closing gun stores under an executive order to halt the spread of COVID-19.
The NRA has also come under fire from gun control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, which are funded by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We have been warning regulators and the public about this corruption for years,” Everytown said on Twitter.
Moms Demand Action sarcastically offered that “our thoughts and prayers are with Wayne LaPierre and his cronies at the NRA,” mocking the common refrain used following mass shootings.
The New York lawsuit names the NRA as a whole and four senior executives of the group including Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president who has been atop the leadership for decades.
The suit charges the NRA with awarding contracts to close associates and family and “no-show contracts” to former employees in order to buy their silence.
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