News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New York Attorney General On The Lawsuit To Dissolve NRA


We're going to speak now with the attorney general for the state of New York. A lawsuit that she filed today seeks to dissolve the National Rifle Association. The NRA is registered as a nonprofit in the state. In the suit, Attorney General Letitia James says top NRA executives engaged in fraud over decades, raiding the organization's bank accounts for personal gain. She wants a court to force the organization to repay NRA members. Attorney General Letitia James, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

LETITIA JAMES: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: This lawsuit lays out dozens of allegations describing misuse of many millions of dollars. So big picture - how did the scheme that you described in the suit work?

JAMES: So there were four individuals who were, basically, part of the leadership team of the NRA. They include Wayne LaPierre, the NRA executive vice president; Wilson "Woody" Phillips, the former treasurer and the chief financial officer; Mr. Powell, who was the strategic - he was the chief of staff and the executive vice president of operations; and then there was their counsel, Mr. John Frazer, who worked in that capacity. And for a long time, they violated, basically, their standards. They violated their fiduciary responsibility to the NRA by, basically, looting it of its assets. And it's important that...

SHAPIRO: You could have...

JAMES: Yes, go ahead.

SHAPIRO: You could have called for less severe remedies than dissolving the entire organization. Why did you think such an extreme step was necessary?

JAMES: Well, it's not extreme. This has been going on for years. And they've - and the NRA has become so powerful that they were basically unchecked by others. And because of the fact that they looted the assets of the NRA to benefit not only themselves but also their family and also for individuals who served on the board and also for vendors, they basically violated not only state law, but they may have violated the Internal Revenue Code. And we are submitting the complaint to the IRS for their review.

It's important that - in the state of New York, the Office of Attorney General has supervisory jurisdiction over not-for-profits, including the NRA. And they have a particular mission, but it seems like these four individuals, their focus was to use the NRA - to use it for their own personal benefit and to use it for their lavish lifestyle, with private jets and fancy vacations and expensive meals. And the fraud and the illegality ran so deep that the NRA must be dissolved.

SHAPIRO: The NRA is a politically controversial group, to put it mildly. You have called it a terrorist organization. And today, the NRA described the lawsuit you filed as a political move. Does this suit have anything to do with your view of the Second Amendment, and does the timing of it have anything to do with the fact that it's an election year, given that the NRA is a major supporter of President Trump?

JAMES: So my personal views have nothing to do with this litigation. This litigation was started and this investigation was started in 2019. As we uncovered all of the facts and analyzed the law, we came to a conclusion that, in fact, there was a pattern and practice of illegality. It's also important to understand that there were a number of dissidents and whistleblowers who tried to file complaints, individuals who recognized that there was serious wrongdoing going on in the NRA, and they were ignored. And when they complained to individuals within the NRA, Mr. LaPierre sought to gain their silence by providing them with lucrative consulting contracts and other benefits.

As a result of that, it's really critically important that, as part of the remedies, we're seeking to dissolve the NRA in its entirety, to ban these four individuals, these individual defendants, from serving on any other not-for-profits in the state of New York. We're seeking restitutions based upon all of the money that they have, unfortunately, used to benefit themselves and or their family.

SHAPIRO: New York Attorney General Letitia James on the day she filed the lawsuit against the NRA seeking to dissolve that organization. Thank you for speaking with us.

JAMES: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.