Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has scheduled a news conference today to announce her intervention in a lawsuit in New York state against the National Rifle Association over the non-profit gun lobby’s corrupt practices.
Here’s a summary of what the lawsuit is about from the attorney general of New York. Letitia James, when she filed the suit:
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest and most influential pro-gun organization in the nation. Attorney General James charges the organization with illegal conduct because of their diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty. The suit specifically charges the NRA as a whole, as well as Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff and the Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer with failing to manage the NRA’s funds and failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA.
In the complaint, Attorney General James lays out dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel. In addition to shuttering the NRA’s doors, Attorney General James seeks to recoup millions in lost assets and to stop the four individual defendants from serving on the board of any not-for-profit charitable organization in the state of New York again.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” said Attorney General James. “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.”
Since 1871, the NRA has operated as a New York-registered 501(c)(4) not-for-profit, charitable corporation. Under state law not-for-profit, charitable corporations are required to register and file annual financial reports with the Charities Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The assets are required to be used in a way that serves the interests of NRA membership and that advance the organization’s charitable mission. However, as today’s complaint lays out, the NRA is alleged to have fostered a culture of noncompliance and disregard for internal controls that led to the waste and loss of millions in assets and contributed to the NRA reaching its current deteriorated financial state. The NRA’s internal policies were repeatedly not followed and were even blatantly ignored by senior leaders. Furthermore, the NRA board’s audit committee was negligent in its duty to ensure appropriate, competent, and judicious stewardship of assets by NRA leadership. Specifically, the committee failed to assure standard fiscal controls, failed to respond adequately to whistleblowers, affirmatively took steps to conceal the nature and scope of whistleblower concerns from external auditors, and failed to review potential conflicts of interest for employees.
I’m confident Rutledge isn’t joining New York in attempting to shut down the NRA for corruption. Wonder how much investigation she’s done to see if the New York complaint is well-founded. She’s previously described the New York lawsuit as an attack on the Second Amendment when it is an attack on corruption and abuse of the law. Why Arkansas taxpayers are paying to defend it should be question number one at the news conference.
NRA officials have already admitted improper practices in tax filings.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) admitted in a tax filing that some of the group’s current and former executives have used the nonprofit’s money for personal benefit.
The NRA reported via a 2019 tax return obtained by The Washington Post, that it was investigating the alleged misuse of the nonprofits funds after it “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.”
According to the Post, the tax filing states that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and five former officials received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses to refer to officials boosting themselves at the expense of a nonprofit.
Our gun-toting attorney general, looking to get as far right as Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin has already gotten in the 2022 race for governor, isn’t likely to speak ill of the NRA, no matter how bad the facts make them look. Rutledge continues to champion Donald Trump. Enough said about interest in facts.
UPDATE: So Rutledge and the usual gang of Republican attorneys general are intervening in the federal suit the NRA brought to shut down the New York lawsuit claiming its motivated by political animus and thus a First Amendment violation. Rutledge’s release naturally makes only a passing reference to the corrupt financial practices of the the NRA.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is leading a coalition of 16 States that have filed an amicus brief supporting the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James. The NRA’s lawsuit seeks to block James’s politically motivated attempt in a separate lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, which is the country’s oldest civil rights organization and leading Second Amendment advocacy organization. New York hopes its lawsuit to dissolve the NRA will undermine Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
“New York’s lawsuit is a political stunt by a liberal attorney general who promised in her campaign to go after the NRA. It is designed to undermine our Second Amendment right,” said Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Even if it makes me unpopular in places like New York, I stand committed to protecting the Constitution—particularly Arkansans’ right to bear arms. That is why I oppose the New York Attorney General’s political stunt and am proud to lead these 16 States in supporting the NRA’s lawsuit against New York. I repeat my invitation to the NRA: The Natural State would happily welcome an organization that fights for the Second Amendment rights of Arkansans and all Americans.”
In August, Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit in New York state court seeking to dissolve the NRA. Separately, the District of Columbia Attorney General filed an action against the non-profit organization NRA Foundation, but the DC lawsuit tellingly did not seek dissolution.
Subsequently, the NRA responded by suing Attorney General James in New York federal court, claiming that her dissolution lawsuit violated the First Amendment by seeking to punish the NRA for its constitutionally protected Second Amendment advocacy.
Arkansas’s amicus brief supports the NRA’s federal-court lawsuit. Arkansas argues that James sought dissolution because she doesn’t like the NRA’s political advocacy, its members’ political views, and the organization’s defense of a fundamental constitutional right. The brief argues that New York’s lawsuit violates the First Amendment because it was designed to retaliate against the NRA and its members for these constitutionally-protected activities. The brief makes clear that state regulations of non-profits and charitable organizations are essential to protecting the public. But it also criticizes New York’s politically motivated enforcement of its regulations. Such regulations should never be used to attack a government official’s political opponents.
Arkansas is joined in the amicus brief by Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
In short: It is discriminating against Rutledge to go after a corrupt nonprofit if it worships at the First Church of the Gun.