New York Attorney General Letitia James has moved to dissolve the National Rifle Association in a lawsuit filed Thursday alleging that the powerful gun group is rife with fraud and financial misconduct.
“The organization went unchecked for decades, as top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James said at a news conference this morning. In addition to naming the organization as a whole, the lawsuit also names four former and current executives—including CEO Wayne LaPierre, who’s been the face of the NRA for nearly 30 years.
According to an 18-month investigation by the attorney general’s office, LaPierre and other high-ranking executives siphoned off more than $64 million from the NRA in just three years. The funds were diverted from the association’s charitable mission, and spent on “lavish trips for themselves and their families, private jets, and expensive meals.”
LaPierre himself had flown to the Bahamas with his family in a private air charter at least eight times, and traveled on multiple hunting safaris in Africa—all on the NRA’s dime, the lawsuit claims.
“Mr. LaPierre created an illegal pass-through arrangement to conceal the very nature of these expenditures,” James said. He and his team “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight,” and they “overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favorite board members, employees, and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interest.” Auditors and whistleblowers were either ignored or retaliated against, and some employees were paid to keep quiet.
In a response, LaPierre said the lawsuit was “a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend.”
James is pursuing the toughest possible sanction—a complete shutdown—for the organization, which is registered in New York. James is also asking the court to order LaPierre and other executives to pay back unlawful profits.
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine has also filed a lawsuit against the NRA and the NRA Foundation, which is incorporated in D.C., for misuse of charitable funds.
The lawsuits add to a mounting pile of legal troubles for the country’s largest gun lobby. The group is already embroiled in ongoing litigation with Ackerman McQueen, its former public relations firm, for which it spent an estimated $54 million on legal representation. And a covert recording of an NRA meeting, obtained by NPR, revealed that the group has spent more than $100 million on various legal issues. Additionally, the NRA is still paying off debt from the $30 million it donated to the Trump campaign in 2016.
“The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse,” said James, “which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”