Image courtesy nymag.com and Jack Unruh
By Dan Zimmerman via TTAG
You may have seen headlines over the past week screaming that the NRA is allegedly running out of money. You probably laughed and thought, how could the NRA be broke? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that those breathless reports aren’t exactly accurate. You might even call those headlines #fakenews.
The NRA isn’t in imminent danger of running out of cash. But that doesn’t mean that the gangster-style tactics employed against the organization by the state of New York aren’t a significant threat to its health.
If you’ll remember, in an effort to squeeze the NRA during the height of the post-Parkland hysteria, New York pressured the company that underwrote the NRA’s Carry Guard insurance program to drop their coverage. As a fig leaf for their strong-arm move, the state claimed that the insurance product provided protection to gun owners for committing illegal acts. They called Carry Guard “murder insurance.”
A DFS investigation found that the NRA Carry Guard insurance program provided insurance to gun owners for acts of intentional wrongdoing, and improperly provided insurance coverage for criminal defense.
“DFS will not tolerate conduct by any entity, licensed or otherwise, in contravention of New York Insurance Law,” said Maria Vullo, DFS superintendent, in a press release describing a consent order the agency reached with Lockton.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court for Northern New York, came days after the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) fined several insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars for participating in an NRA-backed liability insurance program for gun owners.The state also also secured agreements from those companies not to offer such insurance again.
But the intimidation didn’t stop with Carry Guard underwriters. Cuomo and his regulators let it be known to a variety of New York-based banks and insurers that they’d take a dim view of any company that did business with the NRA on any basis.
“Of course, Carry Guard was not Defendants’ true focus, and the scope of the DFS investigation rapidly expanded,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants’ goal, from the outset, was to disrupt any and all business arrangements between the NRA and any insurance administrator, broker, or underwriter—indeed, any financial institution.”
That meant cutting off basic financial services such as banking and liability insurance coverage for the organization’s facilities, programs and outlets like NRA TV. If you can’t get basic coverage for slip-and-fall type claims in your buildings or liability coverage for a media operation like NRA TV, you can’t open your doors.
“Defendants’ concerted efforts to stifle the NRA’s freedom of speech and to retaliate against the NRA based on its viewpoints are causing other insurance, banking, and financial institutions doing business with the NRA, such as Lloyd’s of London (“Lloyd’s”), to rethink their mutually beneficial business relationships with the NRA for fear of monetary sanctions or expensive public investigations,” the lawsuit says.
Lloyd’s terminated all of their insurance policies for the NRA. That announcement was made on May 9.
The NRA has contacted other corporate carriers about potential coverage. Each one of them has expressed fear of retaliation by DFS.
“The NRA has spoken to numerous carriers in an effort to obtain replacement corporate insurance coverage; nearly every carrier has indicated that it fears transacting with the NRA specifically in light of DFS’s actions against Lockton and Chubb,” the lawsuit says.
So New York’s strategy was clear. Go full-on thug with any insurance company or bank with a presence in the Empire State…and that’s most large banks and insurance companies. They’d investigate, regulate and fine them into submission until they cry ‘uncle’ and agree to stop doing business with the NRA.
Nice insurance company you got there. Be a shame if sumpthin’ was to happen to it.
This morning Governor
Soprano Cuomo made an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
Watch the whole thing. In the interview, he basically admits to what the NRA is alleging and is darned proud of it.
I think these are bad guys. … Look, from my point of view, I do disagree with them politically. And if they have less money to bully and threaten politicians into irrational positions, you know, I’m not going to lose any sleep over that. And if they went away, you know, I would offer my thoughts and prayers, Joe. Just like they do every time we have another situation with innocents losing their lives.
It’s an extraordinarily dangerous precedent and a tactic which a petty demagogue like Cuomo, as the head of New York’s vast regulatory apparatus, is uniquely positioned to carry out. Gin up an argument why an individual or organization you don’t like is “breaking the law,” then strong-arm banks and insurers to cut them off, starving the target of the attack into insolvency.
Who might be next on Cuomo’s ideological hit list? The NSSF? The Federalist Society? Chick-fil-A? Hobby Lobby? Take your pick. We’re sure there’s no shortage of targets Cuomo might take aim at if this move against the NRA is allowed to stand.