When the newspapers of his day mistakenly rushed to announce his untimely demise, the writer Mark Twain was famously (mis)quoted as saying: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
A federal court has found that, notwithstanding the allegations of malfeasance, the NRA took action rather than stonewalling, and it continues to make improvements.
In the wake of the surging criminal use of guns, left-wing politicians and pundits are portending the downfall of the organization that has done the most to protect Second Amendment freedoms, the National Rifle Association of America. They are boasting that they have the legal means to bring the organization down, and indeed are throwing a stream of Hail Mary measures at the courts in an effort to do so. But in fact, these desperate attempts are failing.
The latest salvo came Sunday from the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who called for the Justice Department to investigate the NRA for its pursuit of an allegedly improper financial reorganization earlier this year. He was referring to the NRA’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in January, which a judge dismissed in May because he concluded that the association’s situation did not meet the grounds for reorganizing under bankruptcy law — far from proof of fraud.
Schumer’s request follows on the heels of a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James to dissolve the NRA. She alleges it has run afoul of state nonprofit law and fails to exhibit good governance. Predictably, Schumer invoked her name in public appearances Sunday, celebrating her pursuit of the organization.
The echo chamber of political commentary in the wake of the Chapter 11 court decision and the blizzard of media reports that accompanied it promoted a false narrative about the NRA’s prospects, including that the bankruptcy case is a massive setback. The reality, for those who want the truth, is that Judge Harlin D. Hale’s recent ruling in bankruptcy court is damaging to James’ now yearslong campaign against the NRA, which culminated in her August 2020 lawsuit seeking to close its doors forever.
James’ case is based on the premise that the NRA does not operate in compliance with New York laws for operating nonprofits and is not committed to good governance. But the testimony at the bankruptcy trial and Hale’s opinion makes it clear that the opposite is true.
During the 12-day trial, Hale heard testimony that the NRA initiated a “360-degree” review of its internal compliance and business practices in 2017, and responded to whistleblowers who brought to light allegations of misconduct by a handful of former employees and vendors, as well as lax expense procedures within the organization.
Apparently, so compelling was the evidence in the view of Hale that he specifically referred to the NRA’s “course correction” and commended it for elevating one of those whistleblowers — whom the court called a “champion of compliance” — to chief financial officer (and who has been elected by the board as treasurer).
Critically, Hale credited testimony that the structural changes that have been instituted within the NRA over the past few years “could not have occurred without the active support” of CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. In sum, Hale said that it seems the NRA “understands the importance of compliance.” (As an example, one of the most widely reported allegations — that LaPierre spent NRA funds on expensive suits — was the subject of testimony that debunked the claim.)
Taken together, this opinion indicates that Hale believes the NRA can fulfill its mission, improve its governance and maintain internal controls — which directly undermines the contentions of the New York attorney general’s lawsuit.
These findings severely undercut James’ narrative and her case to dissolve the association. As many in the nonprofit world are aware, both the law and the precedent in New York are clear: Dissolution of a nonprofit organization is reserved for only egregious cases of fraud and for sham charities that take donations with no intention of fulfilling their supposed cause. Hale’s decision, and the evidence presented during the weeks of testimony, show that this sanction should not apply to the NRA.
In fact, contrary to some false media stories and “expert” opinions, Hale never made a finding of “bad faith” in connection with the association’s bankruptcy filing. He even pointedly rebuffed that suggestion at a subsequent hearing, clarifying that instead he found a “lack of good faith” in the bankruptcy claim — which means that Schumer’s threat of Justice Department retaliation is almost certain to fail.
As Hale observed, the NRA continues unabated in its core mission of advocating for the Second Amendment on behalf of its millions of members and supporters. The decision will have no impact on its staffing or its advocacy and educational programs, which are as robust as ever. And, as Hale noted, it will not affect the NRA’s potential plans to move to Texas, which is eager to welcome it.
Many legal scholars believe James’ case to close down the NRA — a 150-year-old organization that represents 5 million members — should never have been brought. There is little doubt the case was fueled by an unrelentingly hostile environment in New York, and born of James’ public threats as a political candidate and while in office. Without any evidence to support her claims, James called the NRA a “criminal enterprise” and a “terrorist organization”when she was running as a candidate for attorney general.
The NRA continues unabated in its core mission of advocating for the Second Amendment on behalf of its millions of members and supporters.
So troubling have been James’ actions that the American Civil Liberties Union and 16 state attorneys general have spoken out against them. Now a federal court has found that, notwithstanding the allegations of malfeasance, the NRA took action rather than stonewalling, and it continues to make improvements rather than make excuses.
Exaggerated reports to the contrary, a New York court reviewing the state attorney general’s lawsuit will look at the same evidence and draw the same conclusions. The NRA will emerge bigger, stronger and more determined than ever to accomplish its mission.