New York, Aug 6 (efe-epa).- The attorney general of New York State announced Thursday a lawsuit aimed at forcing the dissolution of the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful political pressure groups in the United States, over alleged mismanagement and corruption.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” Letitia James told a press conference. “The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law.”
Founded in 1871, the NRA is registered in New York as a charitable corporation and is subject to oversight by the Charities Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General.
The suit filed by James accuses the NRA of violating multiple laws, including filing false reports with her office and with the US Internal Revenue Service.
With a claimed membership of 5 million, the NRA has long wielded enormous influence over the political process, effectively blocking federal gun control legislation supported by vast majorities of Americans.
The NRA spent tens of millions of dollars to elect Donald Trump and the Republican president has repeatedly retreated from his own modest proposals for gun control in the face of opposition from the organization.
In brief comments to reporters as he prepared to leave the White House bound for Ohio, Trump called the New York lawsuit a “terrible thing.”
Plagued for the last few years by money problems amid internecine squabbling among leading figures in the group, the NRA has seen its financial woes worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides the NRA as an entity, the civil suit names Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre and general counsel John Frazer, along with former treasurer Woody Phillips and LaPierre’s erstwhile chief of staff, Joshua Powell.
Under the direction of those four current and former officials, according to the suit, the NRA went from having a surplus of $27.8 million in 2015 to running a deficit of $36.3 million in 2018.
LaPierre stands accused of diverting more than $4 million in NRA funds to pay for personal travel – jaunts to the Bahamas and African safaris – and private security.
The lawsuits asks for the dissolution of the NRA and for LaPierre, Phillips, Powell and Frazer to be ordered to make full restitution of all of the funds they took out of the organization, including the salaries they were paid.
The court should also “ensure none of the four individual defendants can ever again serve on the board of a charity in New York.”
NRA executives “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight” that contributed to “the waste and loss of millions in assets,” James said in a statement.
The suit presented Thursday was the culmination of a probe launched last year by James, a Democrat who once compared the NRA to a “terrorist organization.”
While the NRA has complained that James is biased against the group, she said that the lawsuit had no connection to her disagreements with the group over gun control. EFE