David Dell’Aquila is the National Rifle Association donor who has been leading a grassroots effort to oust EVP and CEO Wayne LaPierre and other senior NRA officers. In a conversation with him last month, he laid out his four-phase strategy for bringing about those management changes with the goal of cleaning up NRA operations and making the Association more transparent and responsive to its members.
When we spoke, Dell’Aquila had put phases one through three of his plan into effect. Now he’s begun the final phase by filing a class action lawsuit against Wayne LaPierre, the NRA and the NRA Foundation accusing them of fraud in the solicitation of donations.
The suit was filed late yesterday in US District Court in Nashville. You can read it here (PDF).
Dell’Aquila is the named plaintiff in the two-part class action against the NRA and the NRA Foundation on behalf of all US citizens who have contributed to either entity from January 1, 2015 to the present.
According to the lawsuit, Dell’Aquila, a longtime supporter of the NRA, has contributed a total of $100,000 to both entities since 2015 and has pledged 75% of his estate to the NRA and its subsidiaries upon his death.
The lawsuit alleges that the NRA represented that the funds he donated would be used for . . .
…gun safety education; to promote shooting sports and hunter safety; to foster wildlife conservation; and to protect gun ownership rights in the United States.
However, the plaintiffs allege that . . .
Defendants’ statements concerning the use of the solicited funds were materially false. In reality, the NRA used the solicited funds for alternative purposes, including without limitation, the following:
a. By spending over $97,000 per day for the legal services of William A. Brewer, III during the first quarter of 2019, without obtaining documentation justifying such expense.
b. By spending approximately $2 million per month for the legal services of the Brewer, over a thirteen-month period, without obtaining documentation justifying such expense.
c. By spending $274,695 for clothing purchases for Defendant LaPierre from a Beverly Hills clothing store, without reporting such expenses as income for LaPierre in the reports filed by the NRA with the Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”).
d. By spending $243,644 on luxury travel for Defendant LaPierre to the Bahamas; Palm Beach; Los Angeles; Reno, Nevada; Budapest, Hungary; and Italy, without reporting such compensation as income for LaPierre in the reports filed by the NRA with the IRS.
e. By making inflated payments to the NRA’s advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, without obtaining documentation justifying such expense.
f. By spending $5,446.16 per month for a luxury apartment for Megan Allen, an intern in Fairfax, Virginia.
g. By spending funds for a board meeting for the NRA, to be held in Alaska, rather than in Fairfax, Virginia.
h. By paying Defendant LaPierre an annual salary of $1.4 million
The plaintiffs also also allege the at the NRA Foundation misused funds it solicited . . .
a. By transferring approximately $80 million from the NRA Foundation (a tax deductible charitable organization) to the NRA (a non-tax-deductible lobbying organization) over a ten-year period. Such funds then became subject to the financial improprieties described in Count I of this Complaint and jeopardized the tax-deductibility of the donations made by Plaintiffs.
b. By paying $425,000 per year for nine years to the Speedway Children’s Charity, a non-profit organization not related to the NRA’s core mission.
c. By paying at least $125,000 to Youth for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization not related to the NRA’s core mission. Defendant LaPierre’s wife, Susan LaPierre, served on the board of Youth for Tomorrow, and was its President from 2013 to 2018.
The lawsuit asks that plaintiffs be awarded . . .
…damages equal to the amounts such persons donated to the NRA Foundation during the period from January I, 2015 to the present, together with costs, punitive damages and attorneys fees.
That amount isn’t yet clear, and won’t be fully known until the discovery process is complete. But along with possible punitive damages and attorneys fees, an award for the plaintiffs could easily be in the nine figure range.
One additional questionable use of NRA funds that wasn’t listed in the lawsuit was revealed in an article by the Washington Post that was published last night.
Documents indicate that the National Rifle Association planned to purchase a luxury mansion in the Dallas area last year fo the use of chief executive Wayne LaPierre, according to people familiar with the records.
The discussions about the roughly $6 million purchase, which was not completed, are now under scrutiny by New York investigators. The transaction was slated to be made through a corporate entity that received a wire of tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA in 2018, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.
The New York attorney general’s office is now examining the plan for an NRA-financed mansion as part of its ongoing investigation into the gun lobby’s tax-exempt status, in which it has subpoenaed the group’s financial records, the people said.
How many other such revelations that will come to light as a result of the New York and D.C. investigations as well as the Dell’Aquila lawsuit discovery process? Stay tuned.