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New York Attorney General James files lawsuit against NRA

Robert Pelaez
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the NRA that accuses senior executives of misappropriating funds. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Rifle Association and accused senior executives of diverting millions in funds from charitable branches of the organization for their personal use.

The suit charges the organization as a whole along with Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, Chief Financial Officer Wilson Phillips, Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell and Corporate Secretary John Frazer with contributing to the loss of more than $64 million over three years.

“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. “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.”

LaPierre, who has served as the organization’s executive vice president for nearly 30 years, is accused by James of setting up a $17 million post-employment consultant contract for himself without board approval, among other things.

James said LaPierre spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of charitable NRA assets for private plane trips for himself and his family, including at least eight trips to the Bahamas costing more than $500,000 and an all-expenses-paid safari in Africa.  LaPierre is also accused of spending more than $3.6 million in luxury black car services over the past two years and receiving more than $1.2 million in expense reimbursements, including gifts for family members, travel expenses, and memberships at a variety of hotels and clubs.

Phillips, who retired from his position in 2018, is accused in the suit of falsifying information on financial disclosure forms and setting up a deal worth more than $1 million for his girlfriend.  Before retiring, Phillips allegedly obtained a $1.8 million contract for monthly consulting services for the incoming treasurer, despite the current treasurer knowing nothing about the contract, the suit states.

Powell, who was LaPierre’s chief of staff before his termination for allegedly misappropriating NRA funds during his three-and-a-half-year tenure, received “substantial salary increases almost immediately after starting his position,” according to the suit.

Just more than two years into his position, the suit states, Powell’s original salary of $250,000 more than tripled to $800,000.

Frazer, who was chosen by LaPierre to serve as general counsel, also served as the organization’s corporate secretary.  According to the suit, Frazer, on numerous occasions failed to adhere to board governance procedures and enforce compliance with the organization’s conflict of interest policies.

“This is an unconstitutional, premeditated attack aiming to dismantle and destroy the NRA – the fiercest defender of America’s freedom at the ballot box for decades,” LaPierre said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. “The NRA is well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance. We’re ready for the fight. Bring it on.”

James said any criminal findings will be referred to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

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Robert Pelaez

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