A major National Rifle Association donor sued the gun-rights organization this week for fraud, saying its leaders have misspent money over the last four years, ignoring the group’s core mission while paying for expensive clothing and trips for CEO Wayne LaPierre.
David Dell’Aquila filed a federal class-action lawsuit in Tennessee and fired off letters to the attorneys general in New York and Washington on Wednesday, urging them to complete investigations into the NRA well before the 2020 election.
“We feel that the NRA no longer represents its membership and has been corrupted by those in control,” said Mr. Dell’Aquila, who has given about $100,000 worth of cash and gifts to the group in the last several years and — until recently — had pledged most of his estate to the group when he died.
The lawsuit is the latest headache for the gun-rights organization, which has been rocked this year by the departure of top staffers including President Oliver North and former top strategist Chris Cox, and parted ways with its longtime advertising agency after a public dispute over finances.
The NRA is also facing probes by the attorneys general in New York and Washington over financial activities, with the organization’s coveted nonprofit status at risk.
Mr. Dell’Aquila, in his new lawsuit that posted to the Middle District of Tennessee on Wednesday, says the NRA under Mr. LaPierre has drifted from its “core mission” of protecting gun owners’ rights and promoting firearm safety.
DOCUMENT: NRA class-action suit
He lists nearly $275,000 he says the NRA spent on clothes for Mr. LaPierre at a Beverly Hills store and more than $243,000 on “luxury travel” for him to destinations such as the Bahamas and Palm Beach, Florida.
And citing a memo Mr. North wrote in April, the new lawsuit says the NRA has paid the Brewer law firm nearly $2 million a month but the money was “not properly authorized by the NRA.” Mr. North had told NRA officials the payments to the Brewer firm, which is representing the organization in a lawsuit against New York, were “draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed.”
NRA President Carolyn Meadows called the expenditures and legal fees in question “stale news” that’s been “recycled by those with personal agendas.”
“I have full confidence in Wayne LaPierre, the Brewer firm, and the substantial amount of work being done in support of the NRA and our members,” she said.
She called the new lawsuit a “misguided and frivolous pursuit,” saying it “parrots claims from an individual who has worked for anti-NRA organizations and openly campaigned against our cause and our association. End of story.”
William A. Brewer III told The Washington Times the lawsuit is “totally without merit.”
“There was no legitimate ‘investigation’ by Lt. Col. North and the so-called ‘crisis management committee’ never existed — we believe it was part of a contrived narrative to advance the interests of Lt. Col. North, his employer (Ackerman McQueen), and to deflect attention from their conduct,” Mr. Brewer said in a statement to The Times. Ackerman McQueen is the ad agency the NRA parted ways with.
Mr. Dell’Aquila is seeking damages equal to the amount that he and other members have donated to the NRA and its foundation since Jan. 1, 2015, “together with costs, punitive damages and attorneys fees.”
He said the lawsuit is part of a broader effort to clean up the organization.
He said the group’s bylaws need reform, and the NRA needs more accountability and transparency, and better marketing and branding.
He also sent letters to New York Attorney General Letitia James and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine asking them not to let their ongoing probes drag into the 2020 campaign season. He said he feared New York authorities might stage “an early morning police raid” of NRA leaders’ residences.
“The followers of the grassroots are concerned that this raid would be intended to influence the presidential election, by attempting to discredit the NRA,” he wrote.
The offices of Ms. James and Mr. Racine did not respond to requests for comment.
Shortly after Mr. Dell’Aquila filed his lawsuit, multiple outlets reported that Mr. LaPierre had been in talks with the group’s former ad agency last year to buy a $5 million to $6 million mansion in the Dallas area before the plan was abandoned.
The scuttled deal is reportedly part of New York’s investigation into the group.