Know The Enemy – Letitia James

Letitia James is the Attorney General of New York. She recently published her 2019 Year in Review. Reading through this 62 page report gives you some indication of her attitudes and intentions towards gun owners and gun rights groups.

Michael Bane often says on his podcast that if someone says they plan to do you harm, take them at their word. James said in her campaign platform she intended to investigate the charitable status of the NRA. Indeed, that was the number one item on her bullet list dealing with “gun violence” (sic).

As we know, her office has followed through on that threat. The letter that prefaces her 2019 Year in Review noted that she had “opened an investigation into the NRA’s charitable practices “.

Pages 43 and 44 deal with her plans regarding firearms.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic in New York and across the nation. Every loss of life and injury from gun violence is a devastating reminder of our shared responsibility to face this crisis head on and to support the communities that have suffered from its effects. Attorney General James is committed to catching criminals who traffic illegal weapons onto our streets, and holding them accountable. She has taken legal action to protect states’ rights to enact common sense gun safety regulations, including leading a multistate coalition to protect New York’s right to implement these critical measures, which is currently being heard by the United States Supreme Court. She has also partnered with law enforcement agencies across the state to host gun buyback programs and get illegal guns out of our communities. She will continue to pursue every avenue available to reduce gun violence in New York.

By stating that the criminal misuse of a firearm is a “public health epidemic”, James conveniently sidesteps criminal justice steps targeted at the violent criminal actors. Criminal justice is actually not high on her radar if you read the highlights of her annual report. It appears she is more interested in abortion rights, climate change, and protecting New Yorkers “regressive Federal policies” of the Trump Administration than even “gun violence” (sic).

I find it interesting that she resorts to “states’ rights” to defend the repressive gun control laws in her state which leave the poorest at the mercy of criminals. John C. Calhoun would be proud of her use of states’ right to defend the indefensible. He used it to defend slavery and she uses it to defend the denigration of the right to keep and bear arms.

With regard to so-called “ghost guns”, she devotes a whole paragraph to them

The New York Attorney General’s Office was the first law enforcement agency in the nation to charge people for selling so-called ghost guns, or guns that are manufactured from parts sold over the Internet. These guns do not have serial numbers, so they are untraceable by law enforcement. Continuing on these enforcement efforts, in September 2019, Attorney General James directed 16 websites to cease and desist selling nearly complete assault weapons to consumers in New York. Attorney General James will continue to go after those that skirt the law to manufacture illegal and deadly assault weapons.

She then goes on to tout her support for gun buybacks.

Our neighborhoods are safer when unwanted firearms are off our streets and out of our homes. Attorney General James’ Gun Buyback Program provides a safe option for New Yorkers to get rid of guns they do not want, on a “no questions asked” basis. In 2019, Attorney General James partnered with local law enforcement agencies to host 24 gun buyback events at houses of worship and community centers all across the state. As a result of these events, the office recovered over 2,700 guns.

So in one paragraph she opines that “ghost guns” are unserialized making them untraceable by law enforcement. Then she proudly states she provided a safe option to get rid of guns people didn’t want on a no questions asked basis. I can’t be the only one to see the contradiction here. She is against guns being untraceable but is OK with guns actually used in violent crimes not being able to be traced to the violent criminal.

Finally, for some reason, she lumps police body cameras in with her section of “gun violence” (sic).

I guess when New Yorkers elected James they felt they were electing someone who wouldn’t engage in domestic violence like her predecessor nor hire prostitutes like her penultimate predecessor. That was kind of a low bar that even Tish James could hurdle.

More NY Subpoenas For The NRA

Danny Hakim of The New York Times is reporting that NY Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY) issued new subpoenas to the National Rifle Association last week. While I have been keeping up with issues related to the NRA, I missed this.

The subpoena, which was described to The New York Times, was issued last week and covers at least four areas, including campaign finance, payments made to board members and tax compliance. Because the N.R.A. is chartered in New York and the office of the attorney general, Letitia James, has a range of enforcement options, the investigation has alarmed N.R.A. officials already grappling with infighting and litigation. The same office brought a case last year that led to the shuttering of President Trump’s foundation.

Among the documents sought by the subpoena are records related to transfers among N.R.A.-controlled entities, including the N.R.A. Foundation, an affiliated charity. Recent tax filings show that the N.R.A. diverted $36 million last year from the foundation in various ways, far more than ever before, raising concerns among tax experts. The transfers came as the N.R.A. experienced financial strains and challenges from gun-control groups, which outspent the organization in the 2018 midterm elections. An earlier analysis by The Times found that the foundation had transferred more than $200 million to the N.R.A. between 2010 and 2017.

The NRA Foundation, you may remember, is now under an investigation by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine (D-DC). The NRA Foundation is chartered in the District of Columbia.

The New York investigation also is seeking internal documents related to the NRA’s filings with the Federal Election Commission as well as to communication with two political consulting firms. Those firms, Starboard Strategic and OnMessage, are somewhat intertwined. The Cult of Personality known as Giffords has sued the FEC alleging that the NRA paid money to Starboard Strategic as a means to funnel money to Republicans using OnMessage.

The New York Attorney General’s Office had no comments on the subpoenas.

However, NBC reports this response from the NRA outside counsel William Brewer III.

“Of course, the financial records of the NRA and affiliates were audited and reported in tax filings, in accordance with state and federal regulations — a fact that underscores the Association’s commitment to good governance,” Brewer said. “It is easy to understand why the NRA believes that the NYAG’s zeal with respect to this inquiry reflects the investigation’s partisan purpose — not an actual concern that the NRA is not effectively using its assets to pursue its members interests.”

“Regrettably, the NYAG seems to credit hollow rants by a handful of actors who are no longer associated with the NRA,” Brewer continued.

While Brewer seems to dismiss the actions of the NY Attorney General and her office saying it has “a partisan purpose”, she does have extraordinary powers when it comes to non-profit organizations chartered in the state. This includes substantial fines and even the possible dissolution of the NRA. If any of the current or former member of the Board are just sloughing this off as a partisan witch hunt, they are doing so at their peril.

This is serious business. I can’t say that it would not have come up if the Board had been doing their due diligence and taking their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. However, it would have been easier to dismiss as having a “partisan purpose.”

More Subpoenas Served On The NRA

Danny Hakim in the New York Times is reporting that New York Attorney General Letitia James and her office have served a subpoena on the NRA seeking financial records from over 90 current and former members of the Board of Directors. The subpoena was served yesterday evening.

The subpoena is an escalation of a continuing investigation into the tax-exempt status of the N.R.A., which is chartered in New York, and engulfs the organization’s board of directors in the inquiry. The subpoena seeks financial records and other documents that would shed light on spending decisions made by the board.

While James’ office is not commenting on the subpoena, the NRA’s outside counsel William Brewer III had this to say.

William A. Brewer III, the N.R.A.’s outside counsel, said in a statement: “As we understand it, counsel to the N.R.A. board accepted service of a subpoena to the board that relates to the production of documents and information.”

He added: “Such a request was expected and, as we have said many times, the N.R.A. will cooperate with any reasonable, good faith request for information given the organization’s commitment to good governance.”

This is making the decision by Tim Knight, Sean Maloney, and Esther Schneider to resign from the board and the decision by Adam Kraut to turn down an appointment to the board seem all that much more wiser.

I’ve heard numerous reports that the NRA’s Directors and Officers liability insurance was either dropped by their current carrier due to its issues or that the premium was so high that it was decided it wasn’t economically feasible. This has been denied. I tend to agree with what Dan Zimmerman of TTAG had to say about it.

The Times report says the NRA denied that their D&O coverage has been cancelled. That’s what the NRA’s Andrew Arulanandam told TTAG over the weekend, too. With the latest news of the NY AG’s widening fishing expedition, that coverage is more important than ever.

I would not be surprised to see a number of resignations by the celebrities – singers, actors, former athletes – from the board on the advice of their personal attorneys. They have deep pockets and if there is any suggestion of the absence of D&O liability insurance it would be risk management 101 to head for the doors.

Interesting Times

David Codrea published the following tweet earlier today. As he was out of town and wouldn’t be available to respond, he said he wouldn’t name names. If it turns out to be false, he said it would be on him. That said, remember he was one of the people who broke open Project Gunwalker aka Operation Fast and Furious.

This will be very interesting so I plan to keep checking Twitter and doing Google searches over the next few days.

A Heavy Artillery Salvo Has Been Fired On The NRA

Much of what has been said by politicians about the NRA and everything negative that has appeared recently in the media of any sort should be considered the equivalent of sniping. It might take out one or two people but not the whole organization. That was then.

The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James (D-NY) has now fired what I would consider the preparatory barrage in the effort to dissolve the NRA. As someone noted to me, James is under pressure to act and she did on Friday.

From NPR reporting on the NRA Annual Meeting:

Even as the NRA struggled to handle its internal divisions, an external threat emerged this weekend in the form of a new investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

“The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation related to the National Rifle Association (NRA),” a spokesperson for the attorney general told NPR. “As part of this investigation, the Attorney General has issued subpoenas. We will not have further comment at this time.”

The NRA has received a document preservation notice in connection with the investigation being undertaken by the New York attorney general, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The NRA responded to the announcement of the investigation by pledging its cooperation.

“The NRA will fully cooperate with any inquiry into its finances,” said William A. Brewer III, an outside lawyer for the NRA. “The NRA is prepared for this, and has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance.”

 This is serious.

It is even more serious because as evidenced by the NRA Meeting of the Members today too many people think just ignoring it will make it go away. The matter is NOT going away.

Compounding this is the NRA’s outside counsel who has a checkered past in terms of legal ethics. He was sanctioned in Texas and his appeal of it was upheld by the Texas Appeals Court last year.

If the NRA is going to use an outside counsel, I might suggest getting the very best – and cleanest – New York non-profit law specialist and let him or her handle it. However, given Brewer’s apparent hold on the attention of certain NRA executives, I doubt this will happen.