In a press release issued Thursday, August 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit filed against the National Rifle Association, alleging fraud and seeking to dissolve the nonprofit pro-gun group. James’ statement includes charges that organization leadership, including President Wayne LaPierre, diverted millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use.
The suit specifically charges the NRA as an organization itself, while also targeting Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson Phillips, former Chief of State and Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer. The suit alleges all the named officers and directors failed to manage funds and skirted numerous state and federal laws, which ultimately contributed to the loss of $64 million in three years. James cited various examples of the four defendants “failing to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and [using] millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and private travel.” The suit seeks to both dissolve the NRA as an organization while recouping lost funds through the seizure of assets. The suit also seeks to bar the defendants from serving on the board of any not-for-profit charitable organization in the state of New York. The Attorney General claims regulatory authority over the NRA because it is chartered as a nonprofit in New York. The corporation first registered in the state in 1871.
“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. “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.” The NRA was quick to respond to James’ suit, releasing a counterattack against the Attorney General on social media with a graphic quoting LaPierre immediately following the press release:
While the suit filed today may come as a startling development to the public, it is no secret the embattled gun rights association has, unfortunately for the Second Amendment’s sake, lost its political footing in Washington. For the past few years, it has been this writer’s opinion that the NRA has patently failed to protect gun rights, as it now still promises in its newsletters and as it is stubbornly envisaged by its staunchest members. It failed to lobby the passage of H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. If passed, the CCRA would constitute a marked reversal in the encroachment of individual gun rights in America. The bill would force anti-gun state legislatures with draconian “may-issue” carry laws to recognize, without exemption, other states’ concealed-carry permits. That would mean states like California would be required to allow residents with a permit from another state and licensed nonresidents to legally carry.
Although damning, the suit filed today would give credence to the belief by many that the pro-gun organization has lost its ability to fight, mired instead by internal strife, mismanagement, and poor spending. Some of the specific claims made by James in the suit include citing LaPierre for spending over $500,000 on eight chartered flights to and from the Bahamas in a three-year period and receiving a $1.2 million cash reimbursement in a four-year period for expenditures that included “gifts for favored friends and vendors, travel expensives for himself and his family, and membership fees at golf clubs, hotels, and other member clubs.” Former treasurer and CFO Wilson Phillips is described by the suit as having set up a deal worth more than $1 million to the benefit of his girlfriend. Joshua Powell is cited as having received a salary increase from $250,000 to $800,000 in a little over three years. Various other complaints are lobbed against the NRA’s top men, which fill out the 169-page document with allegations meant to support the dissolution of the organization itself.
The litigation comes as pressure mounts on the pro-gun nonprofit to accomplish its mission of defending the Second Amendment. “With the wind at their backs,” as one anonymous insider told a reporter, the group was unable to fulfill its legislative priorities while Republicans had full control of Washington and while President Trump sat in the Oval Office. The other notable piece of legislation the group failed to pass, the Hearing Protection Act, would have deregulated the National Firearms Act’s classification of suppressors as it does machine guns and short-barreled rifles. Even a head employee of the ATF, Associate Deputy Director Roland Turk, was quoted in an internal document as wishing suppressors were no longer regulated under the NFA. Even in Europe, where gun laws are more restrictive than anywhere on Earth, suppressors are largely available for sale to the public with no paperwork. They’re considered as they should be: Sound-damping devices meant to enhance firearm safety. Yet the NRA could not help pass legislation in a Republican Congress that would have made it so.
The lawsuit James filed is clearly politically motivated — New York’s Attorney General has recently also gone after numerous firearm parts distributors, including any company that sells 80% firearm kits or ‘ghost gun’ components — yet the question must be begged: Does it matter? Is the NRA still a staunch representative of its donors’ Constitutional rights, or has the organization quietly thrown in the towel, now disposed by its executive leadership to instead frivolously spend its donations meant to protect gun rights? The group that once billed itself as the nation’s “foremost defender of Second Amendment” rights has left behind its own supporters, according to, well, some of its own supporters.
The NRA announced it has filed a counter suit against the Attorney General, claiming James’ suit is politically motivated and is simply targeting the organization for nonjudicial reasons:
Responding directly the claims against them, William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and counsel to the NRA said, “The transactions in question have been reviewed, vetted and approved – and every dollar spent by the NRA has been in furtherance of its mission to defend constitutional freedom. End of story.”