Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the NRA, arrives prior to a speech by US President Donald Trump at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 26, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

New York AG Sues to Dissolve the NRA

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“A breeding ground for greed, abuse, and brazen illegality.” That’s how New York Attorney General Letitia James described the National Rifle Association today as she announced that her office has filed a lawsuit New York State court to dissolve the organization and seek restitution from the leadership who, as James put it in a press conference announcing the suit, used the NRA as “a personal piggybank.”

The suit alleges that, for years, the NRA has been a haven for corruption and self-dealing that used its money (technically charitable funds) to enrich its top leadership and pay for lavish trips and other luxuries, and mismanaged funds in such a way that it breached the organization’s a fiduciary duty to members. All of this is in violation of New York law regarding not-for-profit organizations, under which the NRA is organized.

The corruption of the NRA is legendary, but for years has gone unchecked. A verified source who worked with the NRA for years told The Mary Sue: “When I first went to work for them, I was told that the only comparison of internal NRA politics was the Soviet Politbureau, and that was unfair to the Politbureau.”

Indeed, the corruption and abuse of power for personal gain in the NRA was so bad that the suit alleges it cost the organization $64 million over three years. According to the suit, the money didn’t just go to the four organization leaders named in the suit (NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, and top brass Joshua, Powell, and Woody Phillips) but benefitted family, friends, and allies of the organization. It describes the NRA as essentially a money-laundering scheme, but its money wasn’t stolen, just harvested from their gun-loving members.

The NRA is one of the most powerful and rich organizations in the U.S., and it draws its vast resources mainly from blue-collar members who are frightened into paying dues with vague threats that the left wants to take their guns. Much as Trump’s evangelical working-class voters in the heartland have been tricked into thinking a corrupt billionaire from New York represents their values, so too has the NRA manipulated the fear and prejudices of those same people to harvest money that the leaders of the organization allegedly put in their own pockets.

“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. Among other incidents outlined in the suit, it says Wayne LaPierre arranged for a $17 million retirement for himself, without board approval, and funneled millions to himself through an outside firm so he wouldn’t have to report it on his taxes.

The highest sanction against an organization that a state can seek is to dissolve it, which is what James is asking for in this suit. She is also asking that the four named defendants pay restitution. This is not a criminal suit, but a civil one, and so jail time and criminal penalties for the defendants are not on the table … but if the IRS wants to investigate Wayne LaPierre for tax evasion, that certainly could get him and his cronies in more legal hot water.

Going after the NRA for their corruption is an aggressive step, but deeply needed because the organization is corrupt. Sadly, no one can prosecute or sue them for fostering a culture in the United States that has led to an epidemic of mass shootings and violent death, but authorities can get them on more banal wrongdoing, like stealing millions of dollars from their evil organization for themselves.

This suit couldn’t happen to a nicer organization, and could indeed be the death knell for one of the most corrupt and evil organizations in the world—at least, we hope.

(via NPR, image: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.