New York Attorney General Letitia James wants to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA). In a suit filed today, she accuses the leaders of the nation's largest gun rights group of a long pattern of fraud.
James' lawsuit—and a second suit, filed simultaneously by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine—allege that longtime NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and others in the group's leadership fraudulently diverted millions of dollars from the NRA's charitable mission to prop up their luxury lifestyles.
LaPierre "has spent millions of dollars of the NRA's charitable assets for private plane trips for himself and his family, including trips for his family when he was not present," James' lawsuit alleges.
James seeks the dissolution of the NRA and removal of LaPierre as the group's CEO, among other conditions.
Racine's lawsuit accuses the NRA of illegally raiding the funds of its independent nonprofit foundation to plug budget gaps caused in part "by the NRA's decision to continue to waste funds on improper, lavish spending."
James announced the investigation last year amid a Machiavellian power struggle within the gun group. On one side was LaPierre and his loyalists, and on the other was former NRA head Oliver North and other disgruntled board members. "Former" tells you who won, but that internal drama spilled into court in a nasty lawsuit between the NRA and its largest contractor, the advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.
Both sides accused the other of financial improprieties and extravagant spending. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the NRA considered buying a $5 million mansion on a Dallas golf course for the LaPierres. The Daily Beast reported that the NRA spent $275,000 over 13 years on designer clothing for LaPierre and tens of thousands of dollars to fly in hair and makeup artists for LaPierre's wife.
James' lawsuit alleges that LaPierre and other NRA executives used Ackerman McQueen as a pass-through to conceal millions of dollars of questionable spending from NRA board members. The firm then billed the NRA for "out-pocket-expenses," a practice that James says did not comply with IRS reporting requirements.
Whether or not the lawsuits' allegations are true, the suits, brought by Democratic officials against one of the most divisive advocacy organizations in the country, are guaranteed to ignite a political firestorm.
The Washington Free Beacon reported yesterday that the NRA is planning to spend "tens of millions" in battleground states to reelect President Donald Trump. Jason Ouimet, the head of the NRA's lobbying arm, told the Free Beacon that the NRA has added more than 1,000 new dues-paying members per day since June.
There has been a record-breaking surge in gun sales over the past several months, driven by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Bloomberg News reports Trump's response to the New York lawsuit: "I just heard about that. That's a very terrible thing that just happened. I think the NRA should move to Texas and lead a very good and beautiful life. And I've told them that for a long time."