N.R.A. Suit Claims Cuomo’s ‘Blacklisting’ Has Cost It Millions of Dollars

From: Gene Poole ([email protected])

“If I could have put the N.R.A. out of business, I would have
done it 20 years ago,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said of
the National Rifle Association. The two sides are locked in a
legal battle in federal court.CreditCreditChang W. Lee/The New
York Times

The long-running battle between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York
and the National Rifle Association, which says it has lost
millions of dollars because of state officials’ political
agenda, entered another round of legal wrangling and public
posturing this week.

Mr. Cuomo announced on Friday that the state was moving to
dismiss a lawsuit the N.R.A. filed in federal court in May,
which he called “frivolous.” The lawsuit, which accused state
officials of “blacklisting” the gun rights organization, was
amended with sharper language last month.

At issue is whether New York regulators violated the
constitutional rights of the N.R.A. by preventing financial
institutions and insurers in the state from doing business with
the organization.

In the lawsuit, the N.R.A. accused Mr. Cuomo, as well as the New
York State Department of Financial Services and its
superintendent, Maria T. Vullo, of discrimination that violated
the organization’s right to free speech.

Last month’s amended complaint included more details about how
state regulators have squeezed the organization.

The N.R.A. said officials had discouraged banks and insurers,
including Lockton Companies and Chubb Group Holdings, from
working with it.

If insurers remain wary, the organization said, it could be
forced to shut down some of its programs, such as its online
video channel, NRATV.

“Defendants’ conduct indeed shocks the conscience,” the
complaint said.

Mr. Cuomo’s response on Friday was terse: “If I could have put
the N.R.A. out of business, I would have done it 20 years ago.”

While the complaint said the N.R.A. had “suffered tens of
millions of dollars in damages” because of New York State
officials, it did not make specific claims about the
organization’s current financial standing.

Much of the argument revolves around Carry Guard, an insurance
program started by the N.R.A. last year that was meant to cover
legal fees for people who fired a weapon in self-defense.

New York financial regulators began investigating the program in
October. That investigation was continuing when a gunman killed
17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
Fla., in February.

Survivors of the shooting have led protests in support of
stricter gun control. Politicians have voiced their support,
including Mr. Cuomo, who stretched out on a sidewalk to
participate in a “die-in” with students in Lower Manhattan in
March. Several businesses including car rental services,
airlines, technology companies and insurers announced that they
were cutting ties with the N.R.A.

Three months after the Parkland shooting, the Department of
Financial Services announced that Lockton and an affiliate would
pay a fine of $7 million while Chubb and a subsidiary would pay
$1.3 million for underwriting Carry Guard.

According to the department, the program “unlawfully provided
liability insurance to gun owners for acts of intentional

Days later, the N.R.A. filed its initial complaint, arguing that
the state’s aims went far beyond its opposition to Carry Guard.
“From the outset, it was clear that the investigation was meant
to advance Cuomo’s political agenda by stifling the N.R.A.’s
speech and retaliating against the N.R.A. based on its viewpoint
on gun control issues,” it said, claiming that its
constitutional rights had been violated through conspiracy and
implicit censorship.

Last month’s amendments added two more accusations: that state
officials had interfered with potential revenue and that they
had violated the N.R.A.’s freedom of association.

“Defendants seek to silence one of America’s oldest
constitutional rights advocates,” it said. “If their abuses are
not enjoined, they will soon, substantially, succeed.”

In announcing the filing to dismiss the suit, Mr. Cuomo said
that “while the N.R.A. tries to play the victim, New York stands
with the real victims — the thousands of people whose lives are
cut short by gun violence every year.”

The N.R.A. is a staunch, sometimes incendiary defender of the
Second Amendment with a long record of hobbling regulatory
efforts, grading legislators on their voting histories and
running ads suggesting that the rights of gun owners are forever
under siege.

During the 2016 presidential election cycle, the N.R.A. spent
$20 million to persuade voters to reject Hillary Clinton and
another $11 million in support of Donald J. Trump. Public
records from that year showed that the organization’s expenses
exceeded revenues by about $46 million.

Donations to the organization spiked after the Parkland
shooting, according to records from the Federal Election

William Brewer, a partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors who
is lead counsel in the organization’s lawsuit against the New
York officials, said on Saturday that the N.R.A. is growing and
“in good financial standing.”

“However, the conduct of defendants, from the home state of the
N.R.A., now threaten the financial growth and overall trajectory
of the organization,” he said.

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Cuomo doubled down in his opposition
to Carry Guard, announcing a “national effort urging states
across the country to follow New York’s lead and outlaw” the
insurance program.

“At a time when Washington has completely abdicated its
responsibility to protect the American people, states must
lead,” he said in a statement.


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