NRA faces probe that could cost it its nonprofit status

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On Friday, the DC attorney general formally issued subpoenas requesting financial information from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its charitable arm, the NRA Foundation — the latest in a long ling of piling issues threatening to bring down the entire organization.

The subpoenas are focused on whether or not the NRA breached DC’s nonprofit regulations. “We are seeking documents from these two nonprofits detailing, among other things, their financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors,” DC Attorney General Karl Racine said

If the NRA refuses to comply with Racine’s demand, or if the DC attorney’s general office finds the NRA in breach of nonprofit regulations, Racine’s office can bring court proceedings seeking to dissolve the NRA in its entirety, or to place the organization in receivership.

The NRA has replied that it will comply with Racine’s request. “The NRA has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance,” NRA counsel William Brewer III said. 

The subpoenas are the latest in a litany of developments ratcheting concerns about the NRA’s financial future — and the future of the organization itself.

To wit, Racine’s request also follows a similar request in New York, where the NRA was first chartered in 1871. New York Attorney General Letitia James requested similar documents pertaining to the NRA’s tax-exempt status, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed “insurance and financial services companies to review their relationship with the organization,” the Washington Post reported.

The document demands come amidst a background of roiling internal strife, and ongoing questions about the NRA’s involvement in Russian interference efforts in 2016.

On the Russian front, Russian national Maria Butina was jailed earlier this year for failing to disclose that she was working as an undeclared Russian agent. While schmoozing with NRA higher-ups — and while helping organize trips to Moscow to meet with sanctioned Russian officials — Butina collaborated with a now-sanctioned former Russian official to plot out how best to continue growing close to the NRA. She is due to be released from prison later this year, and will likely return immediately to Russia.

As a source familiar with congressional investigations told ThinkProgress, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is planning to issue a formal report on the NRA’s interactions with Russia over the coming weeks. The questionable links between Russia and the NRA were first highlighted by ThinkProgress in late 2016.

Internally, the group is facing unprecedented stress. For instance, after the NRA’s longtime advertising agency Ackerman McQueen refused to comply with an internal audit, the NRA moved to end the relationship entirely. As such, the NRA announced they would no longer provide new programming on NRATV, a propaganda arm that Ackerman McQueen had been operating.

On the executive level, things have hardly been better. Former NRA President Oliver North stepped down a few months ago in a contentious ouster. Prior to his departure, North alleged that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre had engaged in a raft of financial improprieties, including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on clothing and travel, among other expenses. LaPierre denied the charges, and eventually forced North out of his position.

Along the way, the NRA’s top lobbyist, Chris Cox — who had been accused of also trying to help extort LaPierre into resigning — left the organization.

The NRA’s declining financial situation shows no sign of changing anytime soon. As The Trace reported, NRA membership revenue also dropped nearly a quarter between 2017 and 2018, and the company revealed it no longer offers free coffee for employees. 




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