New York Attorney General Letitia James is suing to completely dissolve the National Rifle Association over financial misdealings, she announced in a press conference Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, NRA leaders broke many state and federal laws that led to the organization losing more than $64 million in three years, including improper income tax withholding and wage reporting.
"The NRA was serving as a personal piggy bank for four individual defendants," James said.
The organization's top leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, allegedly spent millions on private travel, including multiple private jet trips to the Bahamas and all-expenses paid safari vacations in Africa.
LaPierre, along with former treasurer and chief financial officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, former chief of staff and executive director of general operations Josh Powell, and Corporate Secretary and General Counsel John Frazer, were charged in the civil suit, in addition to the NRA as a whole.
“It is clear the NRA has been failing to carry out its stated mission for many years and instead has operated as a breeding ground for greed, abuse and brazen illegality,” James said. "Today we send a strong and loud message that no one is above the law, not even the NRA, one of the most powerful organizations in this country.”
The NRA released a statement Thursday calling the lawsuit a "baseless, premeditated attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend."
"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," the statement reads.
NRA executives are accused of funneling their lavish personal purchases through Oklahoma-based advertising agency Ackerman McQueen, fudging expense reports by labeling private travel and other inappropriate spending as "out-of-pocket expenses" without sharing further details.
In 2017 and 2018, Ackerman McQueen was paid $70 million for their services, obscuring that the money actually went to expensive hotels, private jets, food, events, club memberships, and beauty treatments for LaPierre's wife.
The pro-gun organization, which is registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, is a powerful and controversial force that donates large sums of money to political campaigns.
James' announcement is certain to set up a long legal battle with the NRA, whose supporters include swaths of Republican leaders.