New York’s Attorney-General has sued the National Rifle Association (NRA) over allegations that high-ranking executives diverted millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court by Attorney-General Letitia James alleges NRA leaders paid for family trips to the Bahamas, private jets and expensive meals that contributed to a $US64 million ($88 million) reduction in the NRA’s balance sheet in three years, turning a surplus into a deficit.
The lawsuit highlighted misspending and self-dealing allegations that have roiled the NRA and its longtime leader, Wayne LaPierre, in recent years — from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
Simultaneously, the Washington, DC, Attorney-General sued the NRA Foundation, a charitable arm of the organisation designed to provide programs for firearm safety, marksmanship and hunting safety, accusing it of diverting funds to the NRA to help pay for lavish spending by its top executives.
The troubles, which Ms James said were long cloaked by loyal lieutenants and a pass-through payment arrangement with a vendor, started to come to light as the NRA’s deficit piled up and it struggled to find its footing after a spate of mass shootings eroded support for its pro-gun agenda.
The lawsuit said Mr LaPierre, 70, spent millions of the NRA’s dollars on travel consultants, including luxury black car services, and hundreds of thousands of dollars on private jet flights for himself and his family, including more than $US500,000 ($691,000) on eight trips to the Bahamas over a three-year span.
Ms James, a Democrat, argued that the organisation’s prominence and cosy political relationships had lulled it into a sense of invincibility and enabled a culture where non-profit rules were routinely flouted and state and federal laws were violated.
Even the NRA’s own bylaws and employee handbook were ignored, she said.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organisation went unchecked for decades while top executives funnelled millions into their own pockets,” Ms James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.