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In civil corruption trial, jury finds NRA, Wayne LaPierre liable

In a civil corruption trial, jurors not only concluded that NRA enriched themselves, they also ruled against the organization itself.

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Thanks to its influence in Republican politics, the National Rifle Association tends to win most of the political fights it engages in, but legal fights are another matter entirely. NBC News reported:

Wayne LaPierre diverted millions of dollars away from the National Rifle Association to live luxuriously, while the gun rights group failed to properly manage its finances, a jury found Friday. The verdict comes after five days of deliberations and ends a seven-week long civil corruption trial in New York City.

It’s been a few years, but as longtime readers might recall, New York Attorney General Letitia James first brought this case in 2020, and the Democratic prosecutor accused the far-right organization and its executives of all kinds of irregularities. Current and former NRA executives, including LaPierre, stood accused of enriching themselves, and jurors apparently found the case persuasive. Those same jurors, meanwhile, also ruled against the organization itself, concluding that it failed to properly oversee its assets.

Stepping back, however, a larger pattern of far-right grift comes into focus.

After Donald Trump’s defeat in 2020, for example, The New York Times reported on the Republican’s political operation and the brazenly underhanded tactics it employed to swindle its unsuspecting donors.

The Times found that Team Trump set up a system for online donors: By adding easily overlooked pre-checked boxes and opaque fine print, the then-president’s operation was able to fleece unsuspecting donors for months. Not surprisingly, banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.” Some donors even “canceled their cards” just to make the recurring payments to Trump stop.

The Republican was presented as a politician who was effectively fleecing his own supporters, but he wasn’t alone: The National Republican Congressional Committee embraced similar tactics.

A year earlier, criminal prosecutors accused the Republicans behind the We Build the Wall initiative of running a scam operation. One of Trump’s political action committees has also faced prosecutors’ scrutiny, at least in part because it hyped an “Official Election Defense Fund” that didn’t exist.

The former president was also found to have run a fraudulent charitable foundation and created a fraudulent “university,” which was designed to do little more than rip off its “students.”

It now appears the NRA’s donors have reason to be displeased, too.

Taken together, I’m reminded of a line MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote more than a decade ago: “Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.”

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

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