New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA

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FILE - This Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at the National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md. New Yorks attorney general is suing the National Rifle Association, seeking to put the powerful gun advocacy organization out of business over allegations that high-ranking executives diverted millions of dollars for personal benefit. The lawsuit filed Thursday, Aug. 6, by Attorney General Letitia James followed an 18-month investigation into the NRA, which is a nonprofit group originally chartered in New York.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

New York’s attorney general sued the National Rifle Association on Thursday, seeking to put the powerful gun advocacy organization out of business over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.

Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit, filed in Manhattan state court, highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and its longtime leader, Wayne LaPierre, in recent years — from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.

“It’s clear that the NRA has been failing to carry out its stated mission for many, many years and instead has operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality," she said at a news conference. “Enough was enough. We needed to step in and dissolve this corporation."

Simultaneously, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine — like James, a Democrat — sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organization that provides programs for marksmanship and firearm safety, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by top executives.

In a statement, NRA President Carolyn Meadows labeled James a “political opportunist” pursuing a “rank vendetta” with an attack on its members’ Second Amendment rights.

“You could have set your watch by it: the investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle,” said Meadows, who announced a countersuit in federal court in Albany that could set the stage for a drawn-out legal battle lasting well past November’s election.

The New York lawsuit made only civil claims, but James said the investigation was ongoing and any criminal activity discovered would be referred to prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service.

The NRA's financial troubles, James said, were long cloaked by loyal lieutenants but became public as deficits piled up. The organization went from a nearly $28 million surplus in 2015 to a $36 million deficit in 2018.