New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Thursday against the National Rifle Association (NRA), stating that leaders of the organization engaged misused donations from members to fund their own personal expenditures for decades.
In the filing she made to the state’s Supreme Court, James alleged $64 million of funds were improperly spent by a number of executives with the non-profit pro-gun group, including by CEO Wayne LaPierre.
A statement from James’s office noted “a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent.” The attorney general called for the removal of LaPierre from his post, punitive actions against him and other officials at the NRA, and for the dissolution of the organization altogether.
James told reporters she was taking the extraordinary step of seeking to dissolve the organization “[b]ecause the corruption was so broad. And because of the level of waste. And because they have basically destroyed all of the assets of the operation.”
The New York Attorney General also said precedent allowed her to make such a request, including in 2018 when the Trump Foundation was dissolved after allegations came about that Trump had used the charity to fund his personal expenses.
The NRA issued a response regarding the lawsuit, alleging it was without merit.
“This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend,” the statement read. “You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle.”
James’s office, which began investigating the NRA in February of 2019, alleges that leaders of the group signed off on a number of financial reports they knew to be fraudulent, all while using funds from the organization’s coffers to benefit themselves and their friends.
The attorney general also noted that serious inquiries into the activities of the NRA in recent years were hampered due to the organization’s political influence.
“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.
Following the announcement of the lawsuit, President Donald Trump issued out a tweet alleging to his followers that the “Radical Left New York is trying to destroy the NRA.” Trump also warned that if he wasn’t reelected president, Americans’ “guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice.”
The political wing of the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars to support Trump’s election in 2016.
Viewpoints of the NRA have taken a significant dive in recent years, according to polling from Gallup. At its height in 2005, 60 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the organization, with only 34 percent expressing a negative opinion. In 2019, however, that favorable opinion dropped down to 48 percent, with 49 percent saying they had an unfavorable view of the NRA.