During yesterday’s National Rifle Association membership meeting, one of the organization’s foes that Executive director Wayne LaPierre singled out for criticism was New York’s newly-elected attorney general Letitia James. Now, in the wake of allegations of overspending, conflicts of interest and a lack of internal controls, James has announced that her office has opened a formal investigation of the NRA.
James Fishman, a co-author of “New York Nonprofit Law and Practice: With Tax Analysis,” a leading text on nonprofit law, told me, “There is no such thing as a director who doesn’t direct. You’re responsible to make yourself aware of what’s going on. If the board doesn’t know, they’ve breached their duty of care, which is against the law in New York,” where the N.R.A. is chartered. According to Owens, the former I.R.S. official, New York State “could sanction board members, remove board members, disband the board, or close down the organization entirely.”
This is a very real threat to the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. See the AP’s report below, which notes that subpoenas — no doubt for both officers and board members — have been issued by the AG . . .
NEW YORK (AP) — New York state’s attorney general, who promised during her campaign to (investigate) the National Rifle Association’s nonprofit status, has begun an investigation into the finances of the gun owners’ group, her spokeswoman said Saturday.
“The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation related to the National Rifle Association (NRA),” spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly said in an email. “As part of this investigation, the Attorney General has issued subpoenas.”
William A. Brewer, the NRA’s outside lawyer, says the organization “will fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances.” He added, “The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance.”
James, a Democrat, had vowed during her campaign last year to investigate the NRA’s not-for-profit status if elected.
“I will use the constitutional power as an attorney general to regulate charities, that includes the NRA, to investigate their legitimacy,” she said at a July 12 rally.
News of the investigation came as a struggle for leadership of the NRA erupted at the gun lobby’s annual convention in Indianapolis.
Iran-Contra figure Oliver North announced Saturday that he would not serve a second term as the NRA’s president. The move followed North’s failed attempt to remove longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
The factional rift within the NRA was fueled in part by the threatened New York investigation. The group began a review of all its contractors last summer after James promised to investigate.
The review led the NRA to sue its longtime public relations firm, Oklahoma-based Ackerman McQueen, which some NRA officials complained was refusing to turn over financial records. North had taken the firm’s side in the legal battle.
The NRA has clashed repeatedly with New York elected officials aiming to curb the organization’s influence.
The group filed a lawsuit last year against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials after New York fined insurance broker Lockton Cos. LLC $7 million for underwriting an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard.