(CN) - The National Rifle Association sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday for what it called a “political blacklisting campaign” that targeted banks and insurers that work with the gun-lobbying group.
“Simply put, defendants made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA,” the 33-page complaint states.
Represented by Manhattan attorney William Brewer III, the NRA brought its suit against Cuomo and the state Department of Financial Services in the Northern District of New York.
The complaint begins with a reference to the NRA’s founding after the Civil War and says that this noble history has been trampled “against the backdrop of recent tragedies and a polarized public gun-control debate.”
“Cuomo and the other defendants have abused their authority in an effort to stifle the NRA’s political advocacy and to retaliate against the NRA for the effectiveness of that advocacy,” the complaint continues.
Brewer paired his complaint with a statement Friday.
“Political differences aside, our client believes the tactics employed by these public officials are aimed to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment right to speak freely about gun-related issues and in defense of the Second Amendment,” the attorney said.
“We believe these actions are outside the authority of DFS and fail to honor the principles which require public officials to protect the constitutional rights of all citizens,” he added.
Cuomo’s office has not returned a request for comment on the suit, but the state office named as a defendant posted a statement on its website Friday.
“As the primary regulator of insurance companies and state-chartered banks doing business in New York, it is incumbent upon the Department of Financial Services to supervise and guide regulated entities to mitigate the risks to their safety and soundness that may derive from a variety of sources, including reputational risk,” it said.
“As part of the department’s ongoing investigation, DFS’s consent orders with both Lockton and Chubb addressed the unlicensed and unlawful activity connected with the NRA’s ‘Carry Guard’ program, which unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for acts of intentional wrongdoing. The department will not stand down from its mandate to enforce New York law.”
Lockton and Chubb are insurance companies that provided insurance coverage to NRA members who shot someone and claimed self-defense. Earlier this month, the department fined Chubb $1.3 million and Lockton $7 million for providing liability insurance to people who in some cases committed “intentional wrongdoings.”
But the NRA attributes these “costly investigations and penalties” to an alleged decades-long “political vendetta” by Cuomo.
The complaint labels the Democrat a “political opportunist who has consistently sought to gain political capital by attacking the NRA.”
The NRA has been called a terrorist organization by activist and filmmaker Michael Moore, a progressive PAC called Mad Dog, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and more than 11,000 people who signed a petition on MoveOn.org.
The NRA, which said it had suffered tens of millions in damages including “reputational damage,” asked for injunctive relief ordering Cuomo and the department to stop interfering with its First and Second Amendment rights and demanded a jury trial. It filed a similar suit in Alexandria, Virginia, earlier this week.
The U.S. gun control conversation has been particularly feverish, and often critical of the NRA, since the Parkland, Florida, shooting on Valentine’s Day that killed 17 people, mostly children. On Thursday, incoming NRA President Oliver North accused Parkland survivors who have advocated for gun-control measures of being criminals.
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.