NRA Investigation Escalates As Its Charitable Foundation Targeted by D.C. Attorney General

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks during the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting Leadership Forum on April 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
John Gress/Getty

The National Rifle Association and its charitable arm received subpoenas from the District of Columbia’s attorney general Friday, widening a series of ongoing probes into the gun-rights group and its finances. There have been a raft of reports documenting possible financial improprieties at the highest levels of the organization since early this year.

“The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia has issued subpoenas to the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) and the NRA Foundation, Inc., as part of an investigation into whether these entities violated the District’s Nonprofit Act,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine told Newsweek in a written statement. “We are seeking documents from these two nonprofits detailing, among other things, their financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.”

The NRA Foundation is the NRA’s affiliated charity, raising tax-deductible donations from gun-rights supporters for programs related to education, training and research. It was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1990, giving Racine substantial oversight of its activities. Friday’s subpoenas mark a significant expansion of the public scrutiny of the NRA, as this action opens up a new front in the campaign to conduct rigorous investigations of the group’s finances.

In May, The New York Times revealed that the foundation was delivering significant infusions of cash to the main NRA organization, in part to help offset the NRA’s flagging finances that have left the group with costly deficits in recent years.

Racine’s probe follows New York State Attorney General Letitia James’s April announcement that her office was opening an investigation into the NRA’s finances.

The D.C. attorney general is responsible for safeguarding the mandate of charitable organizations and protecting their assets. In order to remedy potential violations of the city’s non-profit law, the attorney general can petition a court to dissolve charities or place them into receivership.

After President Donald Trump suggested in early July that the NRA flee New York to reincorporate in Texas, ostensibly to evade oversight from the state’s attorney general, an NRA spokesperson told Newsweek that the group had no plans to do so.

Democratic members of Congress have called on the IRS to review the NRA’s non-profit status, a blow that could devastate the group’s ability to operate, and a member of the House committee with oversight of the non-profit sector has launched his own inquiry.

The calls in recent months follow a slew of reporting about the NRA, its board and highest-level officers. These reports have revealed alleged financial mismanagement, secrecy and infighting at an enormous scale. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was revealed to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive clothing and luxury travel, with his non-profit picking up the tab.

Ackerman McQueen, the PR firm that had produced the NRA’s signature digital media program, NRATV, had a falling-out with the NRA over disputes about billing records, allegations of backstabbing and personnel management. The two entities are now suing each other in court.

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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