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By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Rifle Association filed a countersuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, saying she lacks authority to invoke state laws governing nonprofits in her zeal to destroy the gun rights group.
In a Tuesday night court filing, the NRA, which filed for bankruptcy last month and said it would switch its incorporation to Texas from New York, accused James of "weaponizing" her powers to pursue a "blatant and malicious retaliation campaign" against the group because she dislikes what it stands for.
"While we review this filing, we will not allow the NRA to use this or any other tactic to evade accountability and my office’s oversight," James said in an emailed statement.
The Democrat had sued the NRA and Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre last August in a state court in Manhattan.
She accused it of diverting millions of dollars to fund luxurious trips for officials, no-show contracts for associates, and other questionable expenses.
In seeking the lawsuit's dismissal, the NRA countered that James sued "with the sole purpose of seeking to dissolve a political enemy."
It also said her "selective enforcement" of state not-for-profit laws violated its constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
Both the NRA and LaPierre denied many of James' specific accusations in court filings on Tuesday.
The lawsuit deepens the divide between the NRA and James, who is also seeking to dismiss the group's bankruptcy.
Noting that the NRA claims to be solvent, James has called its bankruptcy and plan to reincorporate in Texas after 150 years in New York a bad-faith effort to escape her lawsuit and oversight.
She has also proposed letting a court-appointed trustee take over the NRA's affairs if the bankruptcy proceeds.
A hearing on James' requests is scheduled for March 29 in the Dallas bankruptcy court.
Bankruptcy filings normally halt existing litigation, but James has said she deserves an exemption to enforce her "police and regulatory power."
The case is New York v. National Rifle Association et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451625/2020.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Maria Chutchian; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Peter Cooney)