When Allahpundit covered the announcement that New York Attorney General Letitia James was trying to dissolve the entire National Rifle Association, he found probable cause to look askance at Wayne LaPierre’s handling of the organization’s finances, but also noted that dissolving the entire organization would be nearly unprecedented. It also stinks to high heaven when you consider that we’re in the final months of a presidential election and she’s set herself up as attempting to take out a political enemy rather than addressing any possible corruption in the group’s upper management. As it turns out, AP wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines. The Free Beacon has a nice roundup of some of the legal authorities who have weighed in on the subject and find it equally troubling. And that group includes liberals who go out of their way to bash the NRA and its pet cause while still saying that James is simply going too far.
Experts across the political spectrum are skeptical of New York attorney general Letitia James’s (D.) attempt to dissolve the NRA, with some liberals even calling the move “dangerous.”
Legal scholars told the Washington Free Beacon it was hard to see the massive gun-rights group being dissolved over James’s investigation into its finances. Cato Institute legal fellow Walter Olson said the case presented amounted to a Democrat attempting to shut down a key political opponent.
“Closing down opposition organizations, traditionally, was something that you heard of going on in strongman regimes and you did not have going on in the United States,” Olson said. “And that’s what she’s asking for is for: a major opposition organization to be closed down.”
Walter Olson of the Cato Institute (quoted above) is obviously no fan of the NRA. But he provided some succinct examples of similar cases from the past. One of the best was the investigation into the Teamsters in the 1970s and 80s. What the government found when they dug into that union was enough to curl your toes. It was basically owned by the mafia and had its fingers into everything from protection rackets to murder. But even the Teamsters weren’t dissolved entirely. The government took over the operation of the union for three decades, but the Teamsters are still with us.
There were others. Washington Post editor Ruth Marcus, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, and University of Minnesota law professor Alan Z. Rozenshtein have all checked in with their shared distaste for the NRA and everything it stands for but expressed even more dismay at how James is handling this. It’s thuggery on an industrial scale, where we see an ambitious Democrat in a very blue state with future dreams of national office using the power of the DA’s office to attempt what amounts to a hit job on a political opponent.
At a more basic level, who is Letitia James supposedly seeking to protect in this issue? The members of the NRA? I’d be willing to bet that more than a few of us were put off our feed by some of the extravagant spending that LaPierre was engaged in, along with the number of lawsuits the group was having to pay to fend off. That dilutes all of the money that supporters donate to them so there’s less left to fight expensive Second Amendment battles in the courts.
But if the members are unhappy, everyone is free to vote with their wallets or their feet by refusing to send in any more donations and letting their memberships lapse. Frankly, the rank and file NRA members probably aren’t looking for a refund. If there are any adjustments to be made in the group’s finances, they would probably prefer to see the cash be channeled back into the efforts they were trying to support when they joined.
This may wind up coming back to bite Letitia James and her liberal allies in the backside. If she had simply sought some sort of financial reckoning for the group, she would likely be enjoying much broader support, at least on the left. But her entire case could be in danger if the people who should be most inclined to agree with her keep edging away sideways and saying that she’s basically going after a mosquito with a shotgun here. And that she’s doing it for baldly obvious political reasons.