Saturday, February 24, 2024

NRA and ex-leader found liable after being sued over lavish spending (WaPo)

Putative non-profit NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION was run for the benefit of insiders and vendors. From Washington Post: 

NRA and ex-leader found liable after being sued over lavish spending

Updated February 23, 2024 at 10:09 p.m. EST|Published February 23, 2024 at 6:29 p.m. EST
A New York state jury found that former National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre mismanaged the gun rights group and cost it $5.4 million. (Video: Reuters, Photo: Michael Wyke/AP/Reuters)
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The National Rifle Association and its former CEO were found liable Friday after the New York attorney general’s office sued them, saying they misspent millions of dollars on extravagant perks.

A New York jury found that Wayne LaPierre, who led the NRA for three decades, squandered millions on vacations, private jets and expensive clothes, and said he was liable for $5.4 million in damages. Jurors also determined that the NRA failed to include or misrepresented information in tax filings and broke New York law by not adopting a whistleblower policy.

In a statement, the NRA said that the verdict revealed it had been victimized by vendors and “insiders” who had stolen from the organization. By the time James filed her lawsuit in 2020, the NRA said, it had fixed problems that had been exposed by 2018 whistleblower complaints and an internal investigation that followed. An attorney who represents LaPierre did not respond to requests for comment Friday night.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who had sued in 2020 over allegations that the group violated state law governing how charities registered in New York can operate, hailed the verdict as “a major victory.”

“Wayne LaPierre blatantly abused his position and broke the law,” she wrote on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. “But today, LaPierre and the NRA are finally being held accountable for this rampant corruption and self-dealing.”

LaPierre’s lawyers denounced the case as a political witch hunt by James, the AP reported, and during closing arguments Thursday, attorney Kent Correll argued that LaPierre had to use private jets for safety reasons and that they were not for his personal benefit but to raise money for the NRA.

“Whether you agree or disagree with the NRA’s mission, there should be no dispute the NRA delivers on that mission,” NRA lawyer Sarah Rogers told jurors during her opening statement.

Deadly school shootings in Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn., rattled LaPierre. In the summers that followed, he borrowed a 108-foot yachtfrom a Hollywood producer to use as a “security retreat.”

“Thank God I’m safe,” he said in a deposition

LaPierre, who built the NRA into a political powerhouse that stymied firearm limits even in the face of waves of mass shootings, resigned in early January on the eve of the start of the trial, citing health reasons.

At the time, James said that the “end of the Wayne LaPierre era at the NRA is an important victory to our case” but vowed to hold him accountable at trial.

N.Y. state attorney alleges corruption by NRA, leader Wayne LaPierre

In her opening statement, special counsel Monica Connell said that LaPierre stacked top positions with enablers and participants in his bad conduct. Under LaPierre, the NRA “did not operate according to law or even according to its own rules,” but based on what LaPierre wanted, Connell said, adding that he had been referred to as “the king of the NRA.”

The New York attorney general’s case included accusations that the NRA’s money was stolen for personal use, such as taking swanky trips and buying expensive clothes, and that misconduct involved nepotism and corruption.

Connell told jurors that those misdeeds were a disservice to the NRA’s donors.

“People take money out of their pockets, hard-earned money, and they donate it to charities that they believe in … They should be able to trust that the hard-earned money they donate is going to go to advance the mission of that charity,” Connell said.

At trial, LaPierre testified that he didn’t know that the hotel stays, travel expenses, meals, access to yachts and other perks counted as gifts, the AP reported. But he admitted that he had wrongly expensed flights on private jets for his family and received vacations from companies doing business with the NRA, all without disclosing them, according to the AP.

Luxury spending, internal strife leave NRA staggering into 2024 election

Founded in 1871, the NRA operated for many years as a promoter of safety and recreational shooting. After LaPierre took the reins in 1991, it focused on amassing political power in D.C. and state capitals. Politicians high and low feared a negative NRA rating would make them vulnerable to an election-year challenge on the right.

But underneath those political wins, cracks were beginning to form in an organization facing a sharp decline in membership, financial instability and disarray, The Washington Post previously reported.

Luxury spending, internal strife leave NRA staggering into 2024 election

In 2020, the attorneys general of New York and D.C., sued the NRA for financial improprieties. Two years later, member dues plummeted to $83 million from $170 million in 2018, according to tax records.

At the same time, donations slumped while the group faced mushrooming legal fees, growing to an annual average of $36 million after 2016. By 2018, former NRA board president Oliver North worried that the rising legal expenses — used to counter a slew of piling lawsuits — were “draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed,” he wrote in a leaked memo that year, The Post reported.

In 2021, a group that was once among the most influential outside forces in electoral spending, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, seeking to restructure in Texas and avoid legal action in New York.

Four months later, a federal judge denied the protections, finding that the NRA’s bankruptcy petition “was not filed in good faith.”

Instead, the judge argued, it was a last-ditch effort to fend off a lawsuit — the same one that, nearly three years later, would prompt a jury to find the NRA and the key architect of it gun rights agenda liable of corruption.

Emma Brown, the executive director of Giffords, an advocacy and research organization promoting gun control, said in a statement to The Post that the jury’s decision is “only the beginning of legal consequences for the NRA’s financial wrongdoing and abuse.”

“The NRA has long been toppled from its seat of power, entrenched in scandal and extremism,” Brown said.

The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety said in a statement posted on Instagram that Friday’s decision is the culmination of organizations putting “pressure on the NRA and exposing the destruction they’ve caused.”

“It confirms that the NRA is no longer invincible,” the post states.

Shayna Jacobs, Beth Reinhard, Silvia Foster-Frau and Justine McDaniel contributed to this report.

Jonathan Edwards is a reporter on The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. Before joining The Post, he covered public safety for The Virginian-Pilot and Lincoln Journal Star. Twitter
María Luisa Paúl is a reporter on The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. She joined The Post as an intern on the General Assignment desk and has previously reported at the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.  Twitter

1 comment:

Gregory said...

All these phoney baloney special interests groups are a grift, manipulation apparatus, and scheme to defraud someone of something. It's literally legalized fraud. Those people are snake oil salesmen.