July 22, 2024

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre resigns amid trial over misuse of funds

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando. He announced his resignation on Friday. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Jan. 7 (UPI) — Embattled NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre announced his resignation Friday as a trial gets underway in New York accusing him and other executives of using funds from the gun right’s organization as a “personal piggy bank.”

“With pride in all that we have accomplished, I am announcing my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement released by the NRA. “I’ve been a card-carrying member of this organization for most of my adult life, and I will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. My passion for our cause burns as deeply as ever.”

NRA President Charles Cotton said he accepted LaPierre’s resignation during the organization’s board meeting in Irving, Texas.

Just ahead of La Pierre’s corruption trial, set to begin Monday, the NRA’s former top executive , Joshua Powell, has admitted wrongdoing and agreed to pay $100,000 for his wrongdoing.

Powell’s announcement came from from the New York state attorney general’s office on Friday came the same day that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, 74, announced his resignation from the organization after more than thirty years.

“Joshua Powell’s admission of wrongdoing and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation confirm what we have alleged for years: the NRA and its senior leaders are financially corrupt,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday in James’ 2020 lawsuit accusing LaPierre and three other NRA leaders of using the nonprofit’s funds as a “personal piggy bank” to pay for expensive trips and other lavish items. Jury selection began this week.

The state’s complaint cites “dozens of examples where the four individual defendants failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the NRA and used millions upon millions from NRA reserves for personal use, including trips for them and their families to the Bahamas, private jets, expensive meals, and other private travel.”

James seeks the ouster of LaPierre and the three others — Wilson Phillips, John Frazer and Joshua Powell.

In January 2021, the NRA attempted to file for bankruptcy, but a federal judge in Texas dismissed the request four months later.

Repeated attempts to throw out New York’s legal charges ultimately failed. The NRA claimed the charges against them were politically motivated by James, a Democrat, and her office.

“The trial will rest on the merits rather than a war of words between the NRA and the New York attorney general,” Judge Joel Cohen said in a June 2023 ruling against the NRA claim the lawsuit was politically charged.

The recent Dec. 28 ruling upheld by the New York Court of Appeals said the NRA trial was able to go on and that James’ office was justified in its pursuit due to “ample evidence of malfeasance” in a “lengthy, detailed complaint” by the state’s Attorney General.

The decision said the state “showed as a matter of law that it had probable cause to investigate and sue the NRA.” Notably, the ruling went on to add the NRA failed to “affirmatively argue that the NYAG lacked probable cause” to pursue legal charges.

In the civil lawsuit, James has accused top NRA leaders of misusing more than $64 million in cash donated by gun owners.

LaPierre and others are accused of using the money to pay for private jets, lavish vacations, and to pay friends and allies for jobs that didn’t exist. Powell was previously named as one of five defendants; the trial against four remaining defendants is expected to go forward as scheduled.

LaPierre and the NRA have denied any wrongdoing.

A 2023 Pew Research Center study suggests 6 in 10 adults believe gun violence is a significant problem in the United States, a 9-point increase from 2022. For decades the NRA has spent tens of millions of dollars to elect candidates who support gun rights, and on aggressive lobbying efforts in opposition to gun control measures and legislation.

Since 2018, reportedly over 1 million members have fled NRA rank-and-file yet the organization reported the same year it was still 6 million members strong. But LaPierre went on to state in a 2021 legal deposition NRA membership was under 4.9 million. In addition, CBS reported NRA revenue saw a 23% drop in 2020 — the year the NRA lawsuit first began — from $367 million in 2016 down to $282 million.

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