The National Rifle Association filed a countersuit Tuesday against New York Attorney General Letitia James, accusing the top attorney of “weaponizing” her powers to destroy the pro-Second Amendment group and “silence a political enemy.”
In the suit, the NRA alleges James doesn’t have the authority to invoke state laws governing nonprofits and is pursuing a “blatant and malicious retaliation campaign” because she doesn’t like the gun rights group.
“While we review this filing, we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight,” James told Reuters on Wednesday.
Last August, James filed a lawsuit against the NRA in a state court in Manhattan following an 18-month investigation in an effort to dissolve the organization. She accused the group of illegal conduct due to mishandling millions of dollars of funds by diverting the money for luxurious trips, no-show contracts for associates and other suspicious expenses.
“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.”
The lawsuit targeted the organization as a whole and four senior leaders — 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.
In the Tuesday court filings, The NRA and LaPierre both denied several specific accusations made by James.
In January, the NRA filed bankruptcy in New York in an effort to restructure the organization and move to Texas, saying the move “involves utilizing the protection of the bankruptcy court” via voluntary Chapter 11 filing in federal bankruptcy court, despite the organization being “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The organization assured stakeholders that there would be no changes to operations or the group’s mission, and they instead plan to grow in Texas where 400,000 of its members are located.
“This strategic plan represents a pathway to opportunity, growth and progress,” says NRA CEO & EVP Wayne LaPierre. “Obviously, an important part of this plan is ‘dumping New York.’ The NRA is pursuing reincorporating in a state that values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members, and will join us as a partner in upholding constitutional freedom. This is a transformational moment in the history of the NRA.”
James is seeking to dismiss the bankruptcy, calling the move a manipulative effort to escape her lawsuit and oversight.
The AG has also suggested a court-appointed trustee oversee the NRA’s affairs if the bankruptcy is not stopped, and a hearing for the request is set to take place on March 29 in Dallas bankruptcy court.
While bankruptcy filings typically pause litigation, James has asserted that an exception should be made in order to enforce her “police and regulatory power.”