The New York Attorney General has filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Rifle Association over allegations of financial misconduct.
America’s most powerful pro-gun organisation has been accused by Letitia James of siphoning millions of dollars from its charitable mission for personal use by senior figures.
“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organisation went unchecked for decades while top executives funnelled millions into their own pockets,” said Ms James.
“The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organisation is above the law.”
The lawsuit is brought against the NRA along with four members who have served on its senior leadership team; Wayne LaPierre, Wilson “Woody” Philips, Joshua Powell and John Frazer.
They are accused of contributing to the loss of more than $64m (£48m) in just three years.
Among the allegations laid out by the attorney general, the four individuals stand accused of using millions upon millions of dollars from the NRA’s funds for trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, personal travel and lavish dining expenses.
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The complaints brought against the four men allege they “instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive and fraudulent”.
Ms James described a culture where the individuals abused their power and illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars from the NRA to benefit themselves, their families and associates.
This money was in addition to the millions of dollars they already received in large salaries and bonuses.
In nearly three decades as executive vice-president Wayne La Pierre is described as the “central figure” of the organisation’s alleged corruption.
Among the accusations he faces is securing a post-employment contract for himself, without board approval, valued at more than $17m.
The wrongdoing in the NRA is claimed to be so widespread that Ms James is seeking to dissolve the entire organisation.
It is the country’s oldest and most influential pro-gun lobby. Formed in 1871 to promote rifle shooting, the group now lobbies against all forms of gun control.
A staunch ally of the Republican Party, the NRA champions the constitution’s Second Amendment right for Americans to bear arms.
The NRA is a strong force in US politics and a staunch supporter of Donald Trump – spending more than $54m on federal contests in 2016 including the presidential race against Hilary Clinton, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics.
In response to the New York attorney general’s legal action, NRA president Carolyn Meadows said: “This was a baseless, premeditated attack on our organisation and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend.
“You could have set your watch by it. The investigation was going to reach its crescendo as we move into the 2020 election cycle.
“It’s a transparent attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice in opposition to the leftist agenda.
“This has been a power grab by a political opportunist – a desperate move that is part of a rank political vendetta. Our members won’t be intimidated or bullied in their defence of political and constitutional freedom.”