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Four leaders of the powerful pro-gun lobby are accused by the New York courts of having used members’ contributions for years as “their own piggy bank”. The organization, which is now almost insolvent, is threatened with dissolution.
The National Rifle Association (NRA), on the verge of asphyxiation. New York State announced Thursday, August 7, that it was filing a financial fraud complaint against the pro-gun lobby NRA and its influential boss Wayne LaPierre, with the goal of disbanding this powerful conservative group.
New York Attorney General Letitia James says lobby leader and three other senior officials have used members’ contributions and donations for years as “their own piggy bank”, spending tens of millions of dollars in violation laws governing non-profit organizations.
The four leaders “basically looted the assets” of the group, said the prosecutor, so much so that this lobby which has injected millions of dollars into Republican election campaigns over the years, including that of Donald Trump in 2016, is now virtually insolvent.
Support from the Trump family
In a statement, the NRA accused the prosecutor of wanting to “score points on the political level”, three months before the US presidential election. She said that legal action had been initiated to oppose the complaint.
“We are ready to fight. We are waiting for you,” responded Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the association. “The NRA is well run, financially solvent, and committed to maintaining good governance,” he added, calling the complaint “an attack on democracy and freedom.”
For decades, the lobby has championed the views of millions of gun owners in the United States, staunchly opposing any regulation of the gun market. Its influence is considerable and the organization does not skimp on the means to support candidates defending the same positions in elections, both at local and national level.
Millions of dollars are expected to be injected again by the NRA 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 participate in its events. Asked about the complaint Thursday, the Republican billionaire said it was a “terrible thing”.
Vacation in the Bahamas paid for … with NRA funds
According to the New York prosecutor, Wayne LaPierre, who has headed the lobby for nearly three decades, has among other things 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 lobby vendors, and gave himself $ 17 million for his retirement without the approval of the organization’s board of directors.
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 the former head of human resources. Joshua Powell. The latter would have helped to conceal the various payments.
“The influence of the NRA is such that the organization has evaded scrutiny for decades, as its top executives put millions of dollars in their pockets,” said the New York attorney general. “The NRA is full of fraud and abuse and that is why we are now seeking to dissolve it, because no organization is above the law,” she added.
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The prosecutor denied any political motivation, but conceded that the state had forced the disbandment of only two other lobbying organizations in recent years, one of which was the Trump Foundation.
This is “a groundless, premeditated attack on our organization and the freedoms guaranteed by the Second Amendment that it fights to defend,” said lobby chair Carolyn Meadows, referring to the amendment to the US Constitution, which many Americans interpret guarantees the right to own and carry firearms.