Couldn't have happened to nicer people.The National Rifle Association warns that it is in grave financial jeopardy, according to a recent court filing obtained by Rolling Stone, and that it could soon "be unable to exist... or pursue its advocacy mission." (Read the NRA's legal complaint at the bottom of this story.)
The reason, according to the NRA filing, is not its deep entanglement with alleged Russian agents like Maria Butina. Instead, the gun group has been suing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's financial regulators since May, claiming the NRA has been subject to a state-led "blacklisting campaign" that has inflicted "tens of millions of dollars in damages."
In the new document - an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court in late July - the NRA says it cannot access financial services essential to its operations and is facing "irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm."
Specifically, the NRA warns that it has lost insurance coverage - endangering day-to-day operations. "Insurance coverage is necessary for the NRA to continue its existence," the complaint reads. Without general liability coverage, it adds, the "NRA cannot maintain its physical premises, convene off-site meetings and events, operate educational programs ... or hold rallies, conventions and assemblies."
The complaint says the NRA's video streaming service and magazines may soon shut down.
"The NRA's inability to obtain insurance in connection with media liability raises risks that are especially acute; if insurers remain afraid to transact with the NRA, there is a substantial risk that NRATV will be forced to cease operating." The group also warns it "could be forced to cease circulation of various print publications and magazines."
In addition to its insurance troubles, the NRA court filing also claims that "abuses" by Cuomo and the New York State Department of Financial Services "will imminently deprive the NRA of basic bank-depository services ... and other financial services essential to the NRA's corporate existence."
The lawsuit presents these financial risks as catastrophic. Without access to routine banking services, the NRA claims, "it will be unable to exist as a not-for-profit or pursue its advocacy mission." The lawsuit accuses New York's government of seeking to "silence one of America's oldest constitutional rights advocates," pleading to the court: "If their abuses are not enjoined, they will soon, substantially, succeed."
The lawsuit stems from actions taken by New York financial regulators to halt the sale of an illegal, NRA-branded insurance policy. The NRA actively marketed "Carry Guard," a policy to reimburse members for legal costs incurred after firing a legal gun. In May, the state of New York found that Carry Guard "unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for certain acts of intentional wrongdoing." The NRA's insurance partners agreed to stop selling the policies and pay a $7 million fine.
The NRA complaint alleges that New York was not content to block this single insurance product, but instead campaigned to sever the NRA's ties to a wide range of financial service providers, from insurance companies to banks.
The NRA did not respond to a request for more detail about its financial distress, but its most recent financial disclosure also shows it overspent by nearly $46 in 2016.
The lawsuit decries pressure from state regulators in the wake of the Parkland, Florida massacre - including a letter asking financial regulators to heed "the voices of the passionate, courageous, and articulate young people who have experienced this recent horror first hand" - and from the governor himself. In April, Cuomo tweeted: "I urge companies in New York State to revisit any ties they have to the NRA and consider their reputations, and responsibility to the public."
In this complain, the NRA paints these actions as a "malicious conspiracy to stifle the NRA's speech and induce a boycott of the NRA." Cuomo and state regulators, the NRA alleges, were intent on "suppressing the NRA's pro-Second Amendment view point" and had engaged in "unlawful conduct with the intent to obstruct, chill, deter, and retaliate against the NRA's core political speech."
In the filing, the NRA reveals that its longtime insurer broke off negotiations this winter and "states that it was unwilling to renew coverage at any price." [Emphasis in original.] The NRA claims it "has encountered serious difficulties obtaining corporate insurance coverage to replace coverage withdrawn." In addition, the NRA contends that "multiple banks" have now balked at doing business with it "based on concerns that any involvement with the NRA - even providing the organization with basic depository services - would expose them to regulatory reprisals."
The lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction to block state authorities from "interfering with, terminating, or diminishing any of the NRA's contracts and/or business relationships with any organizations." Without court intervention, the complaint reads, "the NRA will suffer irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm if it is unable to acquire insurance or other banking services due to the Defendants' actions."
Cuomo also did not respond to a request for comment, but has previously waved off the NRA's lawsuit as "a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns."
I do have serious ethical misgivings about the idea of government leaning on private businesses to financially punish private organizations for their political actions. I considered it unconstitutional when Donald Trump uses the office of the Presidency to try to pressure the NFL into silencing players who kneel, or attacked the free press for doing its job. And moral and ideological consistency would require me to object to the same sorts of actions when committed by my side, however just the cause.
But this is the NRA. They are not just a gun-rights group- they are a mouthpiece for Alt. Reich/Trumpian propaganda. That doesn't mean they should be censored, but it does call into question the accuracy of their claims. It would fit their propaganda perfectly to portray a boycott conducted primarily by private citizens and businesses to protest their actions as simply the result of a campaign by a liberal government to violate their rights and take away their guns. And its telling, in my opinion, that their lawsuit appears to be basically asking for an injunction forbidding any regulation of their finances whatsoever. So I suspect that they are significantly overstating the role of the New York State government in this for their own purposes.
Ultimately, the veracity of the NRA's claims will be determined in court. But I certainly won't be shedding any tears if they go belly-up. They broke the law by telling violent criminals "Shoot someone and we'll have your back." That's how this began. They have also served as an active propaganda outlet for Trumpism, engaged in thinly-veiled incitement of violence against the Left, and allegedly served as a go-between for money-laundering from Russia to Trump and the Republicans. They are a cancer on this country, and the sooner they are gone, the better.