June 10, 2023

The New York Attorney General Letitia James Wants to Dissolve the NRA

New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference in New York, June 11, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Dark clouds have hung over the National Rifle Association since at least the 2019 Annual Meeting, with the sudden resignation of Oliver North and competing claims of self-dealing among the group’s leaders. Some sort of investigation and action by the attorney general of New York — where the organization was founded — was inevitable.

Today, NPR’s Tim Mak has the scoop: Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association.

James’ complaint names the National Rifle Association as a whole, but also names four current and former NRA executives: Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former CFO Woody Phillips, and former chief of staff Joshua Powell.

It lists dozens of examples of alleged financial malfeasance, including the use of NRA funds for vacations, private jets, and expensive meals. In a statement, her office said that the charitable organization’s executives “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight” that contributed to “the waste and loss of millions in assets.”

Letitia James may have a bigger ax to grind than Paul Bunyan; she ran for the office as an outspoken foe of the organization and called it a “terrorist organization.”

But she’ll have an easier time justifying her investigation by pointing at members of the NRA’s leadership publicly accusing each other of inappropriate expenditures. Back in 2019, LaPierre claimed then-president Oliver North was trying to extort him and pressure him to resign. North claimed that LaPierre had charged more than $200,000 of wardrobe expenses to an NRA vendor, and “told the NRA board’s executive committee of other allegations, including hefty travel expenses charged to a vendor and sexual-harassment allegations against a senior NRA official.” The National Rifle Association and its primary communications firm, Ackerman McQueen, have been in a lengthy and expensive legal fight since mid-2019, the NRA has been forced to lay off staff this year, and the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 annual meeting. In January, LaPierre reportedly told the board that they had spent $100 million on legal fees.

Most observers will notice the fact that a Democratic state attorney general is launching a massive and likely expensive legal battle against an organization that gets out the vote for mostly-Republican candidates three months before Election Day.

Earlier today, Stephen Gutowski reported the “NRA has added more than 1,000 new dues-paying members per day since June” and “the addition of some 60,000 new members and growing has helped swell NRA ranks to more than five million American adults,” according to Jason Ouimet, who runs the NRA’s lobbying arm and political-action committee.

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