NRA CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has since claimed the lawsuit is purely political.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed a lawsuit seeking to shutter the National Rifle Association, or NRA.
The lawsuit claims that the NRA has spent years beset by financial mismanagement and blatant corruption. According to James, some of the organization’s top executives deliberately rerouted money intended for charity, using it instead for own personal gain.
James’s office has prior experience dismantling large, seemingly powerful organizations. In 2019, for instance, James secured a court ruling against the Donald J. Trump Foundation for misappropriating charitable funds.
The order led to the Foundation having to pay back millions to donors, and also forced its closure.
However, the National Rifle Association—or NRA—is a vastly more influential body. It has more than five million members across the United States, and a long legacy of legal action.
Nevertheless, Jeffrey Fagan, a professor at Columbia Law School, told Forbes.com that the lawsuit likely does not bode well for the NRA.
“Seeking dissolution of an organization that has become a shadow of its former self economically and politically in the past few years seems like punching at air,” Fagan said. “It’s not exactly justice to its membership if the claims of embezzlement of their membership dues and contributions are true.”
James’s lawsuit, adds the NYT, states that the group’s top-ranking leadership—including Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre—have “[failed] to manage the NRA’s funds,” and have refused to follow “numerous state and federal laws.”
Due to the group’s incompetent or corrupt leadership, James estimates that the NRA lost more than $64 million between 2015 and 2018.
It’s that amount, the Times says, that A.G. James is seeking to recover through her lawsuit.
However, the NRA—and especially LaPierre—have insisted that New York is simply trying to push a political agenda. And it is planning to defend itself both in court against the Attorney General’s Office, and by filing a counter-suit against James.
“The NYAG’s actions are an affront to democracy and freedom,” LaPierre said in a statement. “This is an unconstitutional, premeditated attack aiming to dismantle and destroy the NRA—the fiercest defender of America’s freedom at the ballot box for decades. The NRA is well-governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance.
“We’re ready for the fight,” LaPierre added. “Bring it on.”
Fagan, says Forbes, also wondered why New York has filed a civil lawsuit instead of seeking criminal charges—especially given the seriousness of accusations levied against the NRA’s upper leadership.
“If she’s accusing them of fraud, why not pursue this as a criminal case and seek a criminal penalty?” Fagan asked Forbes.com. “Why not prosecute LaPierre, since he’s the focal point of this investigation?”
LaPierre, in an interview last year, reiterated his belief that New York has long been trying to torpedo the organization for political purposes.
“Everybody knows that we were singled out,” he said. “Everybody knows that it’s politics. Everybody knows why it’s really happening. And it’s wrong.”