Four leaders of the powerful arms lobby are accused by New York courts of using members’ contributions for years as “their own piggy bank.” The organization, which is now almost insolvent, is threatened with dissolution.
National Rifle Association (NRA), on the verge of suffocation. New York State announced on Thursday, August 7, that it had filed a complaint of financial fraud against the pro-gun lobby NRA and its influential leader Wayne LaPierre, with the goal of dissolving this powerful conservative group.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said lobby leaders and three other senior officials had used members’ contributions and donations for years as “their own piggy bank” and spent tens of millions of dollars in violation of laws governing nonprofits.
The four leaders “basically plundered the assets” of the group, the prosecutor said, so much so that this lobby, which has injected millions of dollars into Republican election campaigns over the years, including Donald Trump’s 2016, is now virtually insolvent.
Support from the Trump family
In a statement, the NRA accused the prosecutor of wanting to “get points at the political level”, three months before the US presidential election. She said legal action had been taken to oppose the complaint.
“We are ready to fight. We are waiting for you,” replied Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the association. “The national regulatory authority is a well-run, economic solvent and is committed to maintaining good governance,” he added, calling the complaint “an attack on democracy and freedom.”
For decades, the lobby has promoted the views of millions of gun owners in the United States and is resilient to any regulation of the gun market. Its influence is significant and the organization does not skim funds to support candidates who defend the same positions in elections, both at local and national level.
Millions of dollars are expected to be injected by the NRA again for the presidential, legislative and senatorial elections on November 3. President Donald Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr., are members of the organization and regularly attend its events. Asked about the complaint on Thursday, the Republican billionaire said it was a “terrible thing”.
Holidays in the Bahamas paid for … with NRA funds
According to New York prosecutor Wayne LaPierre, who has led the lobby for nearly three decades, has illegally used NRA funds to regularly take his family to the Bahamas for a luxury vacation. He also reportedly accepted expensive gifts and travel from lobbyists and gave himself $ 17 million for his pension without the approval of the organization’s board.
According to the complaint, many of the charges against the leader were made possible by the three other defendants, whom he himself recruited: former treasurer Wilson Phillips, legal director John Frazer and former chief of staff Joshua. Powell. The latter would have helped to conceal the various payments.
“The NRA’s influence is such that the organization has avoided scrutiny for decades because its top executives put millions of dollars in their pockets,” the New York attorney general said. “The national regulator is full of fraud and abuse and that is why we are now trying to solve it, because no organization is above the law,” she added.
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The prosecutor denied any political motivation, but admitted that the state had forced the dissolution of only two other lobby organizations in recent years, one of which was the Trump Foundation.
This is “an unfounded, overwhelming attack on our organization and the freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment, which it is fighting to defend,” said lobbyist Carolyn Meadows, referring to the amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which many Americans interpret guarantees the right to own and carry firearms.