This has not been a good year for the National Rifle Association, which reportedly lost a huge amount of money in 2018. Since those losses were outed, the organization went through a public crisis of leadership, followed by leaked documents that showed insane spending by executives.
From the Post:
A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $400,000 by the group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training. Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum. [...]
In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.
Most of the NRA’s money comes from its 5 million members, and as the organization’s spending habits have been revealed, some of those members are pissed.
“I will be the first person to get in your face about defending the Second Amendment, but I will not defend corruption and cronyism and fearmongering,” a Philadelphia-based baker and NRA member, Vanessa Ross, told the Post.
“You have these facts coming to light, what to most NRA members seem very unreasonable amounts spent on luxuries and conveniences,” Robert Pincus, a NRA member and firearms trainer in Florida, told the Post.
“And at the same time you have the NRA cold-calling and fundraising, claiming they are going to go bankrupt if they don’t get money to fight New York state,” Pincus added. “Then you have the [new] president saying they are in great financial shape, all the financial problems of the past have been fixed. Those three messages don’t all go together.”
The NRA denies that the organization is struggling financially and says the allegations of exorbitant spending are untrue. Last month, a dozen NRA board members wrote in a statement that they have “full confidence in the NRA’s accounting practices and commitment to good governance.” Of course, now we know those board members were probably benefitting from the organization’s loose spending practices as well.
Some of those on the board are industry executives who sell their own wares to the NRA, like Peter Brownell, who was paid $3.1 million for firearms products, according to the Post. But not every member of the board is getting big payouts.
“If these allegations are correct and 18 board members received pay, you’re damn right I am [concerned],” board member and professional basketball player Karl Malone told the Post. “If it’s correct, the members who pay their dues should be damn concerned, too.”
It’s legal for board members to do business with the company under some circumstances. But tax experts say the NRA’s situation is sketchy at best.
“In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this,” said Douglas Varley, an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale who specializes in tax-exempt organizations told the Post. “The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing.”
The NRA’s tax-exempt status is one of the targets of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who announced she would be investigating the organization’s status back in April
Varley added that though it didn’t appear the NRA violated the law, its finances were still concerning.
“But the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organization is serving,” Varley told the Post. “Is it being run for the benefit of the gun owners in the country and the public? Or is it being run as a business generating enterprise for officers and employees of the organization?”
The NRA denies that these relationships are extraordinary.
From the Post:
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said that the number of financial relationships between directors and the NRA is “small,” considering the size of the board and the organization.
He called the gun rights movement “a close-knit community comprised of partners and vendors who understand the issue and are defenders of the Second Amendment.”
Arulanandam also blamed some of the NRA’s incestuous business relationships on boycotts of the organization.
Board members say that getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the organization they are supposed to police doesn’t cloud their judgement.
“NRA board members as a group tend to be both forthright and bullheaded, so I cannot imagine any of them would let a few dollars affect their judgment,” former NRA president David Keene, who was paid $112,000 by the organization for public speaking, told the Post.
Read the rest of the story over at the Post.