Democratic officials in Pennsylvania are worried what impact a lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general against the National Rifle Association (NRA) might have on the 2020 presidential race.
Politico reporter Holly Otterbein said on Thursday after the suit was filed that several Democrats in Pennsylvania, a battleground state President Trump flipped red in 2016, are “panicked” the lawsuit may be interpreted as a Democratic attack on gun rights and the Second Amendment.
“Some Pennsylvania Democratic elected officials are panicked about the NRA lawsuit’s effect on the presidential race. One told me it was an ‘October surprise’: ‘This is the equivalent of Alabama AG suing to dissolve Planned Parenthood for the left,’” Otterbein tweeted.
Some Pennsylvania Democratic elected officials are panicked about the NRA lawsuit's effect on the presidential race. One told me it was an "October surprise": "This is the equivalent of Alabama AG suing to dissolve Planned Parenthood for the left."
— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) August 6, 2020
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is currently leading Trump by 4.7 points in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Trump won the state in 2016 after it had gone for the Democratic candidate in six straight presidential elections.
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced her lawsuit against the NRA on Thursday morning, aiming to “dissolve” the organization for alleged financial “fraud and abuse” allegedly committed by several current and former NRA executives.
“We are seeking to dissolve the NRA for years of self-dealing and illegal conduct that violate New York’s charities laws and undermine its own mission. The NRA diverted millions of dollars away from its charitable mission for personal use by senior leadership,” James wrote in the lawsuit. “Our lawsuit charges the NRA as a whole and four senior leaders, including Wayne LaPierre, with failing to manage the NRA’s funds and failing to follow numerous state and federal laws. These actions contributed to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years for the NRA.”
The NRA denied the allegations: “The NRA has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance. The association’s financials are audited and its tax filings are verified by one of the most reputable firms in the world. Internally, the association has an appropriate conflict of interest policy, which provides that all potential conflicts are reviewed and scrutinized by the audit committee.”
The association’s CEO, Wayne LaPierre, who is named in James’ lawsuit, responded in a separate statement on the NRA’s Twitter account. LaPierre said, “The NRA is well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance. We’re ready for the fight. Bring it on.”
The NRA filed its own counter-suit against the New York attorney general’s office, charging that James has unfairly targeted the gun rights organization since her 2018 campaign for office. The suit alleges that James has consistently defamed the NRA and violated its First Amendment rights.
“James boasted that she would strike foul blows against the NRA and pound the NRA into submission. She vowed that she would use the NYAG’s investigative and enforcement powers for the precise purpose of stanching political speech (‘deadly propaganda),” the NRA’s lawsuit says. “She has begun to deliver on her campaign promises to retaliate against the NRA for constitutionally protected speech on issues that James opposes. As NYAG, James has regrettably succumbed to ‘individual passions, and individual malevolence.’”