The New York State Attorney General has has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA for pervasive corruption and self dealing.
When I heard that news, I reacted like Meg Ryan at the deli:
The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.
In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.
She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten money and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.
The attorney general requested that the court bar the four men — LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former treasurer Woody Phillips and former chief of staff Joshua Powell — from ever serving in a leadership position for a New York charity in the future.
Her investigation, which began in February 2019, found “a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent,” according to a statement by the attorney general’s office.
Meanwhile, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced Thursday that his office filed a separate lawsuit against the NRA Foundation, which is based in Washington. Racine accused the organization of being a puppet of the NRA, despite legal requirements that it independently pursue charitable purposes. Instead, Racine said his office found, the foundation repeatedly lent the NRA money to address its rising deficits.
James said at a news conference Thursday that she is seeking to dissolve the NRA because of the brazenness of the group’s violations of law.
“The corruption was so broad, and because they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA,” she said. “Enough was enough. . . . No one is above the law, not even the NRA.”
Her office cited as a precedent its previous action against the Trump Foundation, which led Trump to shut down the charity in 2018 amid allegations he used it for his personal benefit.
The irony here is delicious.
The lawsuit also claims LaPierre failed to report large sums of personal income to the IRS. James’s office said it found that the NRA chief funneled personal expenses through an outside public relations firm, allowing him to avoid reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal income.
James said Thursday that she was referring those findings to the IRS. She also said that if her office uncovers criminal activity, it will be referred to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
In response, the NRA said Thursday that it was filing its own federal lawsuit against James, alleging that the attorney general has violated the group’s free-speech rights and has been unfairly targeting the gun rights lobby since she began campaigning for the office.
“Thoughts and prayers today to the NRA, which is losing money and political power so quickly that by the end of this case, there might not be anything left to dissolve,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action.
This irony is even more delicious.
Experts in tax law said the deep investigation into the NRA’s finances showed the potential for state officials to vigorously enforce nonprofit rules.
The Washington Post and other news organizations subsequently revealed how the NRA directed funds to board members and how LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel.
A central fraud embedded in NRA finances, James’s suit claims, was a secret agreement to pass questionable expenses through its Oklahoma-based advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen.
A very large portion of those hidden expenses were for personal trips and expenses for LaPierre, the New York suit contends. In a deposition in a separate lawsuit last year, LaPierre acknowledged he did not report any of the NRA-paid expenses as personal income to the IRS and claimed they were business expenses.
The partnership between the NRA and the public relations firm began to crack after James, then a candidate for New York attorney general, announced in summer 2018 that she planned to launch an investigation into the NRA if she won. LaPierre hired a new law firm, led by then-Ackerman McQueen chief executive Angus McQueen’s estranged son-in-law. That attorney, Bill Brewer, urged that the NRA to audit Ackerman McQueen’s bills in preparation for James’s probe.
I’m hoping that Wayne LaPierre ends up destitute and in prison.