With New Subpoena, New York Expands N.R.A. Inquiry to Group's ...
With New Subpoena, New York Expands N.R.A. Inquiry to Group’s Board Members
ImageNew York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking documents from more than 90 current and former members of the National Rifle Association.
New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking documents from more than 90 current and former members of the National Rifle Association.CreditCreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images
By Danny Hakim
Aug 6, 2019
With the gun debate intensifying in the wake of last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, the National Rifle Association’s problems deepened Monday evening as the New York attorney general’s office issued a subpoena seeking documents from more than 90 current and former members of the organization’s board.
The subpoena is an escalation of a continuing investigation into the tax-exempt status of the N.R.A., which is chartered in New York, and engulfs the organization’s board of directors in the inquiry. The subpoena seeks financial records and other documents that would shed light on spending decisions made by the board.
The latest moves come in a year when the N.R.A. and its board have been in turmoil. Its finances and political machine are being strained amid a host of legal battles, as well as a rebellion from some donors and members and infighting that has led to the departures of the board’s president, Oliver North, and the N.R.A.’s top lobbyist and second-in-command, Christopher W. Cox.
A spokeswoman for Letitia James, the New York attorney general, who opened the inquiry in April, declined to comment. Ms. James’s office has broad authority to investigate nonprofits, and has been scrutinizing whether the N.R.A. was using funds designated for charitable purposes appropriately, and if payments made to board members, officers and affiliated parties complied with relevant tax laws and fiduciary requirements.
Her office can pursue potential remedies in court; a previous inquiry by Ms. James’s predecessors led to the shuttering of President Trump’s charitable foundation, a far smaller enterprise.
William A. Brewer III, the N.R.A.’s outside counsel, said in a statement: “As we understand it, counsel to the N.R.A. board accepted service of a subpoena to the board that relates to the production of documents and information.”
He added: “Such a request was expected and, as we have said many times, the N.R.A. will cooperate with any reasonable, good faith request for information given the organization’s commitment to good governance.”
The group is also facing a separate inquiry by the attorney general for the District of Columbia, Karl A. Racine, who is focusing on the N.R.A. Foundation, a large affiliated charity chartered in Washington. Its ties to Russia have also been the focus of Congressional inquiries.
The latest development will apply new pressure to the board, which has largely but not uniformly supported Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, amid the recent power struggle that led to the departures of Mr. North and Mr. Cox. Last week, three board members who had opposed Mr. LaPierre’s management — Sean Maloney, Esther Schneider and Timothy Knight — resigned from the board. On Monday, the N.R.A. disputed a report on a gun blog that its board had been dropped by the insurer who provides insurance against litigation, calling it untrue.
This year, a number of news accounts have raised questions about the N.R.A.’s spending decisions, many approved by its board. In March, The New York Times reported that Mr. North, then the board’s president, had a lucrative financial contract with the N.R.A.’s most important contractor, the advertising firm Ackerman McQueen. (Ackerman and the N.R.A. subsequently embarked on a bitter legal battle.) The Times also reported that the N.R.A. had directed $18 million to a production company in which an N.R.A. official, Tyler Schropp, had a stake.
The organization’s payment practices were further examined in an April story in The New Yorker. And in May, leaks revealed that Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, billed $275,000 through Ackerman McQueen for purchases at the Zegna luxury men’s wear boutique in Beverly Hills and $267,000 in personal expenses, including flights and limousine service for trips to the Bahamas, Florida, Nevada, Budapest and an Italian lake resort. Payments made by the N.R.A. to its board members have also been an area of continuing scrutiny.
Ms. James’s inquiry has aroused the ire of President Trump, a key N.R.A. ally. He tweeted in April, after the investigation was opened, that Ms. James and New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, whose administration is locked in its own legal battle with the N.R.A., were “using the State’s legal apparatus to take down and destroy this very important organization.”
Ms. James’s office, in its own tweet later that day, wrote: “Attorney General Letitia James is focused on enforcing the rule of law. In any case we pursue, we will follow the facts wherever they may lead. We wish the President would share our respect for the law.”https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/06/us/n ... james.html