The National Rifle Association (NRA) claims to have new evidence that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo violated its constitutional rights in an attempt to bar it from operating in the state.
As Breitbart News reported in May 2018, the state declared that the NRA’s “Carry Guard” insurance program was illegal. The program provided insurance coverage for firearms owners in case they were ever charged or sued for firing their weapons.
Then-New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) Superintendent Maria Vullo canceled Carry Guard policies for hundreds of policy-holders, and fined Kansas City, Missouri-based Lockton Companies, the insurance provider, $7 million.
The NRA sued Cuomo and Vullo shortly thereafter, claiming that it was being singled out for enforcement based solely on its political views, particularly its advocacy for Second Amendment rights and against gun control.
As Reuters reported at the time, the NRA’s suit alleged that Cuomo and Vullo acted to keep the NRA from “[speaking] freely about gun-related issues and defend the Second Amendment.”
Cuomo mocked the suit as “a futile and desperate attempt to advance its dangerous agenda to sell more guns.”
In May 2019, a federal district court dismissed some of the NRA’s claims, saying that the NRA had to show that the state knew specifically about similar insurance law violations by other providers and failed to enforce the law. But it dismissed the claims without prejudice, providing leave for the NRA to re-file those claims if evidence emerged.
On Dec. 20, 2019, the NRA asked the court for leave to file an amended complaint, explaining that it had found exactly such evidence, thanks to the state allegedly admitting its discriminatory intent behind the scenes:
In June of 2019, the NRA achieved a breakthrough: in an attempt to negotiate resolution of the NRA’s pending subpoena, Lloyd’s America, Inc. (“LAI”) provided a small number of documents voluntarily to the NRA, subject to a strict confidentiality order. Those documents, and additional details which have come to light since that time, paint a stark and troubling picture of Defendants’ conduct. As described in the NRA’s proposed amended pleading, former DFS Superintendent Vullo was fully aware of identical market conduct by non-NRA entities, yet leveraged DFS’s considerable power over Lloyd’s to inflict harm on “gun programs”—irrespective of whether those programs violated the law. These threats were delivered in off-the-record conversations and surreptitious backroom meetings. Taken aback by such conduct, insurance- industry insiders, including Lloyd’s, privately predicted that the NRA would sue DFS. They were right.
The amended complaint — against Cuomo, Hullo, and the DFS — claims that the defendants attempted to punish any DFS-regulated institutions for doing business with the NRA. It states:
This case is necessitated by an overt viewpoint-based discrimination campaign against the NRA and the millions of law-abiding gun owners that it represents. Directed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and former DFS Superintendent Maria Vullo, this campaign involves selective prosecution, backroom exhortations, and public threats with a singular goal – to deprive the NRA and its constituents of their First Amendment rights to speak freely about gun-related issues and defend their Second Amendment freedoms against encroachment.
[I]n a stunning display of unconstitutional overreach, Defendants made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA. Moreover, Defendants knowingly targeted NRA-related insurance programs for violations not enforced against other similarly situated insurance programs.
The NRA alleges that Cuomo, Vullo, and the DFS were successful in convincing several financial institutions — including some with which the NRA had long-standing ties — to stop doing business with the organization.
The amended complaint cites key new evidence, such as the state’s contacts with insurance company Lloyd’s and its U.S. affiliate, LAI:
For example, beginning in February 2018, Vullo met personally with executives of regulated institutions, including Lloyd’s. During the meetings she discussed an array of technical regulatory infractions plaguing the affinity-insurance marketplace. Vullo made it clear, however, that DFS was less interested in pursuing the infractions of which she spoke, so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA. The threat was clear and unambiguous.
Defendants were fully aware by at least March 2018 (and likely earlier) that non-NRA insurance policies exhibiting the same features were being marketed on behalf of other affinity organizations. Defendants intentionally ignored such knowledge and did not undertake enforcement actions relating to these other similarly constructed programs because enforcing the Insurance Law was never their goal. Instead, as DFS explained to Lloyd’s in closed- door meetings, the Cuomo administration sought to focus on “gun programmes” and gun advocacy groups generally.
Although DFS’s investigation of the NRA, launched at Cuomo and Everytown’s behest, had originally focused on Carry Guard, that changed by February 2018. In the aftermath of the Parkland [Florida] tragedy, Vullo met with senior executives of Lloyd’s and LAI, and presented Defendants’ views on gun control and their desire to leverage their powers to combat the availability of firearms, including specifically by weakening the NRA. These backchannel meetings began on or about February 27, 2018, in the wake of a speech by Vullo at a breakfast meeting of the New York City Bar Association; participants included Vullo herself, along with Joseph Gunset of LAI.
Cuomo, the NRA alleges further, “is a political opportunist who consistently seeks to gain political capital by attacking the NRA.” The complaint summarizes Cuomo’s efforts to damage the NRA over several decades.
Portions of the NRA’s amended complaint are redacted, apparently to protect the confidentiality agreement under which the NRA obtained the new evidence it cites.