By MARY ESCH
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The National Rifle Association is suffering grave financial harm that threatens its ability to pursue its advocacy mission because of a "blacklisting" campaign by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York regulators, the gun rights group said in a federal lawsuit.
In an amended version of a federal lawsuit filed in May, the Virginia-based NRA said it lost insurance coverage after the state's enforcement actions against companies underwriting an NRA-branded insurance program called Carry Guard. It said the Cuomo administration was persuading other insurers to avoid doing business with the NRA.
Without liability coverage, the NRA said it can't maintain its offices, operate educational programs or hold rallies and other political events.
The amended complaint was filed in late July in federal court in northern New York. It names the Democratic governor along with the state Department of Financial Services and its superintendent, Maria Vullo, as defendants.
Cuomo said late Friday the state is filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. "New York will not be intimidated by the NRA's frivolous lawsuit to advance its dangerous gun-peddling agenda," he said.
Cuomo added, "If I could have put the NRA out of business, I would have done it 20 years ago."
The lawsuit said "back-channel communications" by the Cuomo administration "made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA." As a result, it said multiple financial institutions have entered into consent orders that compel them to end longstanding business relationships with the NRA in New York and elsewhere.
"Absent injunctive relief, defendants' blacklisting campaign will continue to damage the NRA and its members, as well as endanger the free speech and association rights guaranteed by the constitutions of the United States and the State of New York," the lawsuit said.
"The actions of defendants are a blatant attack on the First Amendment rights of our organization," William A. Brewer III, an attorney representing the NRA, said in a statement on Friday.
The lawsuit asks the court to have the Cuomo administration stop its practices against the NRA.
In addition to various communications between Vullo and financial institutions at Cuomo's direction, the lawsuit referenced an April 20 tweet by Cuomo: "The NRA is an extremist organization. I urge companies in New York state to revisit any ties they have to the NRA and consider their reputations, and responsibility to the public."
The lawsuit said, "Defendants' abuses will imminently deprive the NRA of basic bank-depository services, corporate insurance coverage, and other financial services essential to the NRA's corporate existence and its advocacy mission."
The motion to dismiss argues that the actions by the governor and Department of Financial Services were designed to protect New Yorkers and they don't harm the NRA's First Amendment rights or other constitutional protections, Cuomo said.