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NY and DC attorneys general sue National Rifle Association for alleged misuse of charitable funds

NY and DC attorneys general sue National Rifle Association for alleged misuse of charitable funds
The attorneys general in New York and DC have launched separate lawsuits against the National Rifle Association (NRA), alleging it is guilty of illegal conduct and the misuse of charitable funds, benefiting senior executives.

Announcing the lawsuit on Thursday, NY AG Letitia James accused the NRA of diverting millions of dollars away from its charitable mission and into the pockets of its senior leadership. This, she says, violates New York's charity laws. 

The lawsuit is targeting the gun-rights organization as a whole, but also names senior leadership, including NRA Chief Executive and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.

The lawsuit, filed in the New York Supreme Court, claims these senior leaders used $64 million over the course of three years for personal use, including on private jets and extravagant trips and meals.

Along with dissolving the group, James is seeking to have the senior leaders pay full restitution. LaPierre and others would also never again be allowed to serve on the board of another charity. 

The lawsuit alleges LaPierre specifically spent millions on personal trips with his family to the Bahamas and other extravagant locations. Trips to the Bahamas cost $500,000 alone, according to the suit. It also claims he spent over three million on travel consultants, and millions more on private security.

The other senior leaders named are: Woody Phillips, former treasurer and chief financial officer; Joshua Powell, former chief of staff for LaPierre; and John Frazer, a general counsel for the group.

DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine also announced a similar lawsuit against the NRA on Thursday, alleging misuse of charitable funds. 

"Donors gave money to fund firearms safety, firearms education and marksmanship training. Instead, that money was diverted to support wasteful spending by the NRA and its executives," Racine said.

He claims the group broke DC law by issuing risky loans and paying fees with no oversight.

President Donald Trump reacted to the lawsuits by saying they are a "terrible thing" and suggesting the NRA should "move to Texas," according to press gathered on the White House South Lawn on Thursday.

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James has long been a critic of the NRA, promising an investigation into them in 2018 and blasting them as a "terrorist organization."

Despite gun ownership being on the rise in the US, the NRA has struggled in 2020 financially, laying off 200 staffers earlier this year, citing dropping revenue. They also announced pay cuts and shorter working weeks for employees. 

The group still holds tremendous influence in DC, often being a much-needed endorsement for Republican candidates. The organization has shown financial support for Trump.

The personal spending mentioned in the NY suit was part of an alleged scheme between the NRA and Ackerman McQueen, a former advertising firm for the gun-rights group. James claims McQueen would pay for personal expenses for senior leaders, but then bill those expenses to the NRA without specifically saying what the money was for, meaning they would have acted as a legal funnel of sorts. 

The NRA actually sued McQueen last year after parting ways over its billing. McQueen has counter-sued for defamation.

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