Fresh off the denial of her request to see the country’s largest gun-rights group dissolved, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.) is back in court seeking new penalties for the organization.
In an amended complaint filed on Monday as part of her ongoing corruption suit against the NRA, James requested that the court appoint both an “independent compliance monitor” and an “independent governance expert” to oversee the group and suggest further reforms. She also reiterated her request to have Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and NRA General Counsel John Frazer removed and permanently barred from serving as officers.
“LaPierre, together with his direct reports, including Defendants Phillips, Frazer and Powell, instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA,” James said in the complaint. “They overrode and evaded internal controls to allow themselves, their families, favored board members, employees and vendors to benefit through reimbursed expenses, related party transactions, excess compensation, side deals, and waste of charitable assets without regard to the NRA’s best interests.”
NRA counsel, Bill Brewer, said the AG’s claims are “baseless” and promised to “vigorously defend its commitment to good governance” in court.
“After the NRA succeeded in obtaining dismissal of her claims for dissolution, the Attorney General files yet another round of equally improper and baseless claims,” Brewer said in a statement to The Reload. “It is unfortunate that the NYAG desperately clings to a failing narrative – apparently trying to score political points in her pursuit of the NRA. Keep in mind her efforts to have a trustee appointed over the NRA failed in federal court last year.”
The new complaint comes just one month after a New York judge dismissed portions of James’ previous complaint against the NRA. James initially sought the total dissolution of the group but failed to convince Judge Joel Cohen of the Supreme Court of the State of New York that her allegations of corruption warranted such a sweeping penalty. While still potentially severe for the accused members of NRA leadership, the revised requests present far less of a threat to the organization’s future.
According to the new complaint, the independent compliance monitor would report directly to James’ office and the court. It would be tasked with overseeing the management of the NRA’s financial assets. Likewise, the independent governance expert would be responsible for advising the court “on reforms necessary to the NRA’s governance to ensure the proper administration of charitable assets.”
Her claims seeking the removal and permanent barring of LaPierre and Frazer from the organization remain from her initial suit against the organization. The judge allowed those claims to proceed in the same hearing he rejected the dissolution attempt.
“In several hundred paragraphs of specific factual allegations, the Amended Complaint describes, in meticulous detail, LaPierre’s exploitation of the NRA for his financial benefit, his abuse of power, and his general disregard for corporate governance,” Judge Cohen said. “As for Frazer, ten paragraphs of the Amended Complaint are spent describing his allegedly incompetent supervision of the NRA’s compliance with New York law, and his failure to ensure the accuracy of the NRA’s annual filings with the Attorney General.”
James first launched her lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020 after being elected in part on a platform of going after the gun-rights group, which she referred to as a “terrorist organization.” She alleged that the organization, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former Chief of Staff Joshua Powell, Frazer, and LaPierre all engaged in illicit conduct with membership dues and other NRA funds. She accused them of enriching themselves with the NRA’s money by billing personal expenses to the non-profit through contractor Ackerman McQueen.
Each of the named defendants, including those no longer with the organization, face punishments that would bar them from serving in any non-profits in the state if James’ suit is successful. They would also be forced to repay the NRA for any personal costs they billed to the organization and any charitable funds they are found to have misused.
UPDATE 5-5-2022 11:03 AM Eastern: This piece has been updated with comment from the NRA.