The National Rifle Association’s hopes of end-running a legal challenge in New York were dealt a serious blow on Monday when a Justice Department official rebuked its leadership and called for the dismissal of its bankruptcy filing or the appointment of an outside monitor to oversee its finances.
Lisa L. Lambert, a lawyer in the United States Trustee’s office, which is part of the Justice Department, said the “evidentiary record clearly and convincingly establishes” that Wayne LaPierre, the longtime N.R.A. chief executive, “has failed to provide the proper oversight.” For a number of years, she added, “the record is unrefuted that Wayne LaPierre’s personal expenses were made to look like business expenses.”
Mr. LaPierre and the N.R.A. had filed for bankruptcy not because of any financial distress, but as a strategy to avoid litigation in New York, where the attorney general, Letitia James, is seeking to shut down the organization and claw back millions of dollars in allegedly misspent funds from Mr. LaPierre and three other current or former executives.
The N.R.A. was chartered in New York a century and a half ago, but it filed its bankruptcy case in federal court in Dallas and is seeking to move its charter to Texas, where politicians are far more favorable to the organization. But the position of the U.S. trustee’s office, which weighed in during closing arguments on the final day of the trial, is likely to weigh on the presiding judge, Harlin D. Hale, who said he will decide by early next week. The United States Trustee Program oversees the integrity of the nation’s bankruptcy courts.
underscored concerns about Mr. LaPierre’s oversight. Mr. LaPierre testified that he took the N.R.A. into bankruptcy without telling even his top lieutenants or most of his board. He testified that he didn’t know his former chief financial officer had received a $360,000-a-year consulting contract after leaving under a cloud, or that his personal travel agent, hired by the N.R.A., was charging a 10 percent booking fee for charter flights on top of a retainer that could reach $26,000 a month.