Albany, NY – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday that she has filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) that accused the group’s executives of using the organization’s funds for personal gain.
James’ lawsuit seeks to do away with the gun right advocacy group because of what she alleged were “years of illegal self-dealings” that bankrolled a “lavish lifestyle” for the group’s leadership, NBC News reported.
The attorney general told reporters at a press conference on Aug. 6 that the NRA had diverted “millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”
“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,” she said, according to NBC News.
Although the organization is headquartered in Fairfax County, Virginia, it is chartered as a not-for-profit organization in New York, giving James investigative authority.
The NRA is the most powerful gun lobby group in the United States and has endorsed President Donald Trump for re-election, NBC News reported.
The complaint named the organization’s long-time chief executive officer, Wayne LaPierre, and three other NRA executives.
James said Wilson “Woody” Phillips, a former treasurer and chief financial officer, Joshua Powell, a former chief of staff and the executive director of general operations, and John Frazer, the corporate secretary and general counsel, are named in the complaint, NBC News reported.
They are accused of having failed to abide by state and federal law in the management of the NRA’s funds.
James said the men allegedly contributed to the NRA losing more than $64 million in three years, NBC News reported.
The investigation into the NRA’s not-for-profit status began in April of 2019, launched by the new attorney general to fulfill a campaign promise.
Retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North resigned as president of the organization that same month, and alleged the leadership had been engaging in financial shenanigans, NBC News reported.
LaPierre, who has run the NRA since 1991, accused North of trying to extort him at the time.
But that didn’t solve the optics problem for the group’s donors, NBC News reported.
Concerns about the NRA’s mounting legal problems and falling revenue also created problems.
The attorney general’s lawsuit called for LaPierre and the other named executives to repay NRA membership for their inflated salaries and improperly used group funds, The Washington Post reported.
James has alleged that the four men diverted the millions of dollars away from the organization’s mission to illegally benefit themselves and their friends.
NRA attorneys have called the lawsuit by James a purely political move, NBC News reported.
Attorney William A. Brewer III has said in the past that “financial records of the NRA and affiliates were audited and reported in tax filings, in accordance with state and federal regulations — a fact that underscores the Association’s commitment to good governance.”
Brewer said James’ investigation into the organization had a “partisan purpose — not an actual concern that the NRA is not effectively using its assets to pursue its members interests,” NBC News reported.
President Trump has repeatedly defended the NRA.
He defended the group after James announced her investigation in 2019, NBC News reported.
The President tweeted at the time that the NRA was “under siege” by the Democratic New York governor and attorney general “who are illegally using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization, & others.”