Gun control advocates repurposed a frequent refrain of the pro-gun movement Thursday, offering "thoughts and prayers" to the National Rifle Association after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that she had filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organization.
James, who called the NRA a "terrorist organization" during her 2018 campaign and has supported efforts by New York lawmakers to strengthen gun control laws, said the lawsuit was driven not by her views on gun violence but by an 18-month-long investigation which uncovered rampant corruption and self-dealing at the NRA.
In the suit filed in the New York State Supreme Court, James alleged that CEO Wayne LaPierre and three other current and former officials violated "numerous state and federal laws” by enriching themselves and their families through the nonprofit group's coffers, costing the NRA $64 million in just three years.
James is seeking to remove LaPierre and general counsel John Frazer from their positions and to bar them as well as former chief of staff Josh Powell and former chief financial officer Woody Phillips from ever serving on a nonprofit board in New York again.
March for Our Lives, the grassroots group started by survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Florida high school shooting, was among those that ironically offered "thoughts and prayers" to the NRA as Republican lawmakers backed by the powerful gun lobby frequently do following mass shootings.
Thoughts and prayers to the NRA. In Washington, we will continue to fight for commonsense gun safety. https://t.co/qj8Ivx4XZ0
— Jay Inslee (@JayInslee) August 6, 2020
The @NRA has already spent $100 million on lawsuits; had to cut $80 million from its budget to stay afloat; and recently laid off and furloughed 200 staffers.
Thoughts and prayers for your fight... https://t.co/VHj2Kbt770
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 6, 2020
James accused LaPierre of overseeing "a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA that was illegal, oppressive, and fraudulent."
"The NRA's influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets," James said Thursday. "The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law."
#BREAKING: I filed a lawsuit to dissolve the National Rifle Association for years of self-dealing and illegal conduct.
The @NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse.
No organization is above the law.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) August 6, 2020
In the lawsuit, James alleged that LaPierre and other top officials signed off on financial documents they knew to be false; that LaPierre spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in NRA money on private plane trips; and that the CEO and his family were frequently “gifted the use of a 107-foot yacht” by an NRA vendor.
The investigation also uncovered "improper expense documentation, improper wage reporting, [and] improper income tax withholding." James did not say whether the alleged federal tax violations could be referred to the IRS for a further probe.
James told reporters that the findings of her investigation were so significant that simply removing the NRA's leaders from their posts would not be a sufficient consequence for the organization.
"The corruption was so broad and...they have basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA," James said. "We needed to dissolve this organization just as we did the Trump Foundation."
On social media, March for Our Lives credited increasingly vocal gun control advocates with helping to elect politicians like James, making the "takedown of the NRA" possible.
Today’s take down of the NRA was made possible by elected leaders who answer to US and who represent OUR interests. We hold the power to vote out electeds who stand in the way of creating a more just and peaceful society and who fail to protect our lives.
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) August 6, 2020
"Our power means lawmakers must listen," the group said. "Our power means we refuse to fear for our lives. We refuse to live without justice. It's our power and we will use it."