New York attorney general Letitia James filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday seeking the complete dissolution of the National Rifle Association over the gun group’s record of financial corruption.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James said in a press release. “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 suit specifically names several leaders of the NRA, including executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre, and charges them with diverting money from the group’s charitable mission and into their own pockets. LaPierre’s lavish spending has been widely reported in recent years, including the nearly $275,000 bill he racked up at the Beverly Hills clothing store Zegna and the quarter-million dollars the NRA paid for him to travel to the Bahamas, Palm Beach, and Italy’s Lake Como, among other places.
The Times has more on LaPierre’s spending:
The lawsuit alleges Mr. LaPierre spent hundreds of thousands of the organization’s dollars on private plane trips, visiting the Bahamas “by private air charter at least eight times” in three years, according to a summary of the suit. He and his family were often allegedly “gifted the use of a 107-foot yacht” by an N.R.A. vendor and he spent more than $3.6 million on travel consultants, including luxury black cars, over two years. He also is said to have secured a post-employment contract without board approval worth more than $17 million.
James said in a press conference Thursday that LaPierre and three other NRA executives “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent.”
The NRA is a nonprofit chartered in New York, which gives James authority to sue the group. The suit only alleges civil crimes, but James said “if we uncover any criminal activity, we will refer it to the Manhattan district attorney.” The suit also alleges tax-reporting violations that James said Thursday will be passed along to the Internal Revenue Service.
James has had her eye on the NRA since before winning the election in 2018. Days before the election, she called the group a “terrorist organization,” and shortly after taking office, she opened an investigation into its tax-exempt status. Asked Thursday to respond to the inevitable criticism that the suit was politically motivated, James said, “This was an investigation that started in 2019 until this day. It’s based on the facts. We follow the facts and the law and we come to conclusions of law and, as a result of that, we have come to the conclusion that the NRA was serving as the personal piggy bank to four individual defendants.”