When a whale dies in the middle of the ocean, its corpse slowly drifts to the midnight-dark abyssal zone thousands of feet below the water’s surface. There, as the enormous carcass decomposes over the course of years, it sustains a flourishing array of bottom dwellers that pick apart the remains, in a phenomenon known as a “whale fall.” A similar event may soon unfold in the gun rights ecosystem as the National Rifle Association implodes. Following decades of self-dealing business practices and financial mismanagement that enriched the leadership, board members, and vendors of one of the country’s most feared political interest groups, the NRA may be forced to shut down for good. A lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in August seeks to impose the rare corporate death penalty on the NRA, after an investigation revealed an organization so corrupt that her office contends it cannot be reformed. The death of the NRA would mark the end of an era, but the lawsuit won’t end the gun rights movement. Over its lifetime, the NRA has built up a massive organizational infrastructure, which will likely live on to sustain even more extreme pro-gun groups. James’ effort to dissolve the NRA is unprecedented, says Michael West, the senior attorney at the New York Council of Nonprofits, but then again, so is the scale of corruption detailed in the lawsuit. When James’ office began its investigation of the NRA more than a year ago, West doubted the attorney general would actually try to dissolve the group, telling me in May 2019, “The more you go for a homerun, the likelier it’s gonna be a swing and a miss.” But after reading the complaint that New York filed this August, he revised his estimation of the case.
“The level of deception and the endless conflicts of interest at every level—I don’t know what you could do to rehabilitate it from a management perspective,” West told me in a recent interview. “The entire management team and board has to go. But if you take out the entire leadership, who runs it? It’s not the AG’s job to recruit new executives and board members. So dissolution is the only viable option.” [full article]