© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Fairfax
By Jan Wolfe and Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association filed for bankruptcy Friday, a sudden development that could help the gun rights group escape a New York attorney general's lawsuit seeking its resolution.
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 protection in federal bankruptcy court in Dallas, saying it plans to reintegrate in Texas to escape "a corrupt political and regulatory environment" in New York, where it is now incorporated.
"Texas values the contributions of the NRA, celebrates our law-abiding members and joins us as partners in upholding constitutional freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, Chairman of the Board in a letter to members. "We seek protection from New York officials who have illegally abused and armed the powers they wield against the NRA and its members."
The NRA was sued in August by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who accused LaPierre and other senior executives of proprietary trafficking and mismanagement, saying the group's activities violated state nonprofit laws.
James said NRA officials diverted millions of dollars to fund luxury lifestyles, including vacations and private jets, and to buy the quietude and loyalty of former employees, which cost the group $ 64 million over three years.
"The NRA's claimed financial status has finally reached its moral status: bankrupt," James said in a statement Friday. "We will not allow the NRA to use this tactic or any other tactic to evade the accountability and oversight of my office."
In its own statement, the NRA did not promise any immediate changes to its business or workforce, saying it was not insolvent. LaPierre added that she is "financially as strong as it has been for years".
The group said it will continue to defend its members' constitutional rights under the second amendment that guarantees the right to keep and carry weapons.
Critics say the NRA is a trailblazer for gun violence.
In her lawsuit, James said the NRA's incorporation as a not-for-profit organization in New York gave it the power to seek its dissolution. The NRA filed a counterclaim in federal court in Albany, New York, accusing it of violating her freedom of speech because she disliked their policies.
The NRA accused Democrat James of obtaining a "corporation death sentence" in order to achieve a "career goal".
Sixteen Republican Attorney General filed a brief in support of the NRA case.
Friday's move will likely put the New York lawsuit on hold, and a reintegration in Texas could take away James' power to disband the group.
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