Wayne LaPierre announces resignation as NRA leader days before civil trial

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By journalsofus.com




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Wayne LaPierre, leader of the National Rifle Association of the United States, who for decades was a fierce protector of the Second Amendment, defending firearms owners and manufacturers, announced his resignation on Friday, days before his trial begins. civil.

LaPierre will step down as executive vice president and CEO effective Jan. 31, the NRA said. in a sentence.

Andrew Arulanandam, NRA executive and head of general operations, will become the organization’s interim CEO and executive vice president, the NRA said on its website.

“With pride in all we have accomplished, I announce my resignation from the NRA,” LaPierre said in a statement released by the group. “I have been a licensed member of this organization for most of my adult life and will never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend Second Amendment freedom. “My passion for our cause burns deeper than ever.”

LaPierre cited health reasons, according to the NRA. Its president, Charles Cotton, accepted LaPierre’s resignation on Friday, the group said.

“Wayne is a leading figure in the fight for constitutional freedom, but one of his other talents is equally important: he built an organization that is bigger than himself,” a statement from Cotton reads.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Wayne LaPierre’s picture hangs above a registration desk before the NRA’s annual meeting at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis in 2019. LaPierre says he will “never stop supporting the NRA and its fight to defend the freedom of the Second Amendment.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James in 2020 filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging that the organization violated laws for nonprofit groups, committed tax fraud and took millions for personal use.

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office confirmed to CNN that the case will still go to trial in New York Supreme Court on Monday. LaPierre attended jury selection this week for the trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks.

It will come after several efforts by the NRA to dismantle the Manhattan court case, moving it out of state or filing appeals claiming the case is politically motivated by James’ office. Judge Joel Cohen, who is presiding over the case, blocked James’ attempt to dissolve the NRA in March 2022, but allowed the lawsuit to continue.

The lawsuit names LaPierre, General Counsel and Secretary John Frazer, former Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, and former Chief of Staff and Chief Executive Officer of General Operations Josh Powell.

“For nearly three decades, Wayne LaPierre has served as executive director of the NRA and has exploited the organization for his financial benefit and the benefit of a close circle of NRA staff, board members and vendors,” the complaint said. .

The lawsuit accuses the NRA of violating multiple laws, including falsely reporting annual returns to the IRS and the New York Charities Bureau, improperly documenting expenses, improperly reporting wages and income taxes, and overpaying people for jobs. for which they were not qualified.

Many of the charges stem from the NRA’s status as a charitable organization, which has strict state and federal rules governing spending.

The lawsuit also asks the court to order LaPierre and other executives named in the lawsuit to fully repay the funds from which they “illegally benefited” and the salaries they earned while they were employees; remove LaPierre and Frazer from NRA leadership; and ensure that none of the executives can serve on the board of directors of any charity in New York.

james office confirmed was investigating the NRA in 2019, after report from The Trace alleged that a small group of executives, contractors and vendors affiliated with the group siphoned hundreds of millions from the nonprofit’s budget.

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New York State Attorney General Letitia James says LaPierre’s resignation “validates our allegations against him, but will not absolve him of liability.”

The NRA filed a countersuit in federal court alleging that the attorney general is impeding the organization’s right to free speech in a way that “threatens to destabilize the NRA and chill speech by the NRA, its members, and other constituents.” ”.

In a statement to CNN, NRA President Carolyn Meadows called New York’s lawsuit a “premeditated and baseless attack on our organization and the Second Amendment freedoms it fights to defend.” “It is a transparent attempt to score political points and attack the leading voice opposing the leftist agenda.”

In the lawsuit, James alleged that current and former NRA leaders “instituted a culture of self-dealing mismanagement” that benefited themselves, their family, friends and favored vendors, leading the organization to lose more of 63 million dollars in three years, according to Previous CNN reporting.

James previously told CNN that claims that the lawsuit against the NRA is political are false.

When asked why she is seeking to dissolve the organization rather than focus on leadership, the attorney general said the misuse of funds was not just a matter of top leaders, but the entire organization’s failure to stop the “looting of charitable assets”. .”

Following the announcement of LaPierre’s departure, James said Friday in a statement in X: “The end of the Wayne LaPierre era at the NRA is an important victory in our case. LaPierre’s resignation validates our accusations against him, but it will not absolve him of responsibility. “We look forward to presenting our case to the court.”

The NRA filed for bankruptcy in 2021 after a long leadership fight that saw the departure of its longtime top lobbyistChristopher Cox, in June 2019. The organization’s problems have coincided with a decline in its political spending over the past two years.

For its first 100 years, the NRA was largely nonpartisan and supported some gun control measures. In the 1970s, however, the group began to lobby against federal firearms restrictionsbecoming strong allies among conservative politicians, particularly within the Republican Party.

Although institutionally hampered, the NRA’s strength endures within the Republican Party, whose leaders remain almost entirely aligned with the group’s positions.

Sara Silbiger/Reuters

Wayne LaPierre addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in March in Maryland.

In a statement to CNN on Friday, Brady, a leading national gun violence prevention organization, said the NRA is “on the ropes now more than ever” after LaPierre announced his resignation.

“They’re losing their leader, they’re under investigation and they’re headed to trial,” Brady President Kris Brown said. “We must thank Brady and Team ENOUGH, youth advocates, survivors and leaders for generating the pressure that created the cracks in the foundation of the NRA.”

The president of Everytown for Gun Safety, another national nonprofit gun violence prevention group, said the NRA “has been in a fatalistic spiral for years” and that LaPierre’s resignation “is another massive setback for a organization that is already at the bottom.”

“LaPierre’s legacy will be one of corruption, mismanagement and the untold destruction that gun violence has brought to all American communities,” said John Feinblatt. “The NRA’s decline in membership, finances and political power spells disaster for the organization heading into the 2024 elections.”

March for Our Lives, a student-led organization, said in a statement Friday that the NRA “was an untouchable and seemingly all-powerful political giant” when the gun control advocacy group was founded after the Marjory Stoneman High School shooting. Douglas in Parkland. Florida, in 2018.

“However, all it took was a few meddling kids and a lot of determination to take down one of the largest and most powerful lobbying machines in American history,” March for Our Lives said in a statement.

“From demanding legal action, to campaigns that stood out their illegal and immoral activities, March For Our Lives took on the NRA time and time again, and since we marched in 2018, they have lost over a million members and almost half of your annual income. “Now, the NRA is a shell of what it once was,” the statement continued.

March for Our Lives reviewed LaPierre’s finances and wrote a letter in November 2018 to the New York attorney general, reporting “potentially illegal” activities before the office launched its investigation the following year. The letter included information. the group said “suggests a long-standing pattern of significant governance failures at the NRA.”

Stephen Gutowski, firearms reporter at TheReload.com and CNN contributor, said Friday of LaPierre’s resignation: “This is huge.”

“I mean, Wayne LaPierre was a staple of the NRA and the gun debate for the last few decades. He is the leader of the gun rights movement in this country forever,” Gutowski said. “The guy who was the guy is gone.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Ray Sánchez, Omar Jiménez, Justin Lear and Sabrina Souza contributed to this report.



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