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The New York Times: Wayne LaPierre’s Use of NRA Funds for Personal Spending Could Lead to Criminal Referral and Investigation

In a magazine piece released today, the New York Times reports that “veterans of the [New York] attorney general’s office and some within the N.R.A.’s inner circle” believe CEO Wayne LaPierre’s use of NRA funds for personal expenses could lead the New York Attorney General to seek a criminal referral to investigate the matter criminally. Among other issues, LaPierre faces scrutiny for billing the NRA’s then-ad agency, Ackerman McQueen, more than $240,000 in travel to Italy, Hungary, the Bahamas and other destinations; using an Ackerman McQueen credit card to spend nearly $40,000 on luxury clothing in one day; and reportedly seeking Ackerman McQueen’s help in an alleged scheme in which the NRA would pay $6.5 million towards a luxury mansion for LaPierre after the Parkland shooting, before the deal eventually fell through. Despite the NRA’s legal troubles, LaPierre’s compensation rose by 57% in 2018 to $2.15 million.

The Times’ piece by Danny Hakim, which can be read in full here, reports that New York Attorney General Letitia James’s ongoing investigation of the NRA could lead to a criminal investigation of LaPierre. Hakim writes that:

  • Some veterans of the New York attorney general’s office and some NRA officials believe Attorney General James “will weigh whether to seek a criminal referral related to LaPierre’s use of nonprofit funds for personal expenses.” As the article explains, “[t]he investigation is being led by the charities bureau of the attorney general’s office, which oversees all nonprofits. Such investigations are typically civil procedures, but the office can refer criminal findings to another agency, or be granted criminal jurisdiction by the governor.”
  • One former chief of the New York Attorney General’s charities bureau told the Times that it would be “preposterous” for the NRA to claim the LaPierre’s expenses in question were “fair, reasonable and in the [NRA’s] best interest.” Yet another former head of the charities bureau noted that, “[i]f the expenses incurred by Mr. LaPierre were not legitimate business expenses of the NRA, and if [LaPierre] conspired with others within or outside the N.R.A. to incur those expenses in a way that would conceal them, then criminal charges could not only be brought against Mr. LaPierre, but also the others who were involved in the scheme.”

This report is the latest in a series of legal troubles for the NRA and its affiliated entities. In addition to Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation, the NRA is under investigation for suspected violations of nonprofit law by DC Attorney General Karl Racine, and also faces regulatory scrutiny over its “Carry Guard” insurance product. In particular, Hakim reports that LaPierre asserts the Carry Guard investigations have cost the NRA “as much as $20 million in lost revenue from Carry Guard, and another $20 million in legal fees.”