In a legal double-whammy Thursday, the National Rifle Association was sued by New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, both alleging mishandling of funds, and James is also asking the court to dissolve the 149-year-old organization.
NRA almost immediately counter-sued in New York, according to Fox News. In that lawsuit, NRA asserts, “The New York Democratic Party seeks to harass, defund and dismantle the NRA because of what it believes and what it says. Only this Court can stop it.”
NRA President Carolyn Meadows, issued a statement describing the New York lawsuit as “a baseless, premediated attack.” She questioned the timing of the lawsuit.
“You could have set your watch by it,” Meadows said, according to Fox News. “The investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle. It’s a transparent attempt to score political points.”
James opened an investigation into NRA more than a year ago. It was a move critics have maintained was politically motivated.”
The 169-page New York complaint, filed in New York Supreme Court in New York County, includes alarming allegations about the organization’s finances. James, who opened an investigation of NRA last year, asserts in her complaint that veteran NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has used the organization “for his financial benefit, and the benefit of a close circle of NRA staff, board members, and vendors.”
In addition to LaPierre and the NRA, the lawsuit names former NRA Treasurer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, Chief of Staff and the Executive Vice President of Operations Joshua Powell and General Counsel John Frazer as defendants.
News of the lawsuit spread like wildfire across the news media, and social media. The New York complaint may be read here.
The separate District of Columbia lawsuit, which spans 24 pages, may be read here. That complaint seeks injunctive relief “sufficient to reform the Foundation’s lack of proper independent governance and a constructive trust over Foundation funds improperly wasted on the NRA.”
The NRA was founded in 1871 and incorporated in the State of New York. The NRA Foundation was set up more than 20 years ago, as a non-profit in the District of Columbia, which explains the lawsuits in the two different venues.
But the firearms community is suspicious.
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The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade organization (NRA critics often contend the member organization represents the gun industry, and it doesn’t), issued a statement noting that it is “troubled by the politically-driven decision of New York Attorney General Letitia James to seek to dissolve the National Rifle Association, America’s oldest civil rights organization.”
“The lawsuit filed today by Attorney General James seeks to punish the over five million members of the National Rifle Association based on mere allegations of possible wrongdoing by a few individuals,” the NSSF said. “NSSF is deeply concerned about the apparent political agenda to silence the strongest voice in support of the Second Amendment ahead of the election in November.
“This lawsuit, and one filed today by the District of Columbia Attorney General, should concern all Americans who cherish both the First and Second Amendments to our Constitution regardless of their views on what laws and regulations are appropriate to address the criminal misuse of firearms,” the trade organization said.
Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, said, “I firmly believe that you’re innocent until proven guilty. But it is also my belief that the NRA board of directors should have taken action when these allegations were first raised and preempted any action that could be taken by the New York State attorney general and the attorney general for the District of Columbia.”
“While there is no doubt both of these attorney generals are opponents of Second Amendment rights,” he stated, “and have an axe to grind, these are serious allegations that have not been put to bed by the leadership of the NRA over the last several years.
“Fortunately, for the gun rights movement,” Gottlieb observed, “the strength of the NRA is not only in its leadership but in its members (who) will not abandon the fight to protect Second Amendment rights.”
In a traditional national election year, NRA would be fully engaged in political efforts at the state and national levels. NRA recently endorsed President Donald Trump for re-election, and it is also working to help Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate, and regain a majority in the U.S. House. That, along with scores of state legislative races, makes the timing of the lawsuits suspicious to many gun owners and Second Amendment activists.
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