From the moment the National Rifle Association filed for bankruptcy in January, it looked like a dodge. Financially solvent despite internal disputes and dwindling donations from some wealthy patrons, the NRA clearly did not need protection from creditors. So why file? Well, as U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin D. Hale ruled Tuesday in rejecting the petition, the NRA was trying “to gain an unfair litigation advantage and … to avoid a state regulatory scheme.” In other words, it wanted to hide in Texas from legal troubles in New York.
And boy does it face legal troubles. The New York state attorney general’s office, which oversees nonprofits registered in New York, went to court in 2020 seeking to dissolve the NRA “because of [its] diversion of millions of dollars away from the charitable mission of the organization for personal use by senior leadership, awarding contracts to the financial gain of close associates and family, and appearing to dole out lucrative no-show contracts to former employees in order to buy their silence and continued loyalty.”
Nothing emerged in the bankruptcy hearings to undermine that contention. In fact, longtime top executive Wayne LaPierre, the public face of the NRA, seemed buffoonish at times, testifying that he was unaware that the nonprofit he ran gave a $360,000-a-year consulting contract to a former chief financial officer who left under a cloud. Nor, he said, did he know that the travel agent the NRA used to book charter flights for the LaPierre family to the Bahamas, Europe and elsewhere received a retainer of up to $26,000 a month as well as a 10% booking fee. And it was news to him that a top aide had finagled a job for his wife with a contractor who then charged the NRA to cover her pay.