At the moment you could almost — almost — pity the National Rifle Assn.
Nah, you can’t. But the front group for the U.S. gun industry is certainly in an awkward situation. Several, actually.
A new report by the Trace (a nonprofit news site covering gun issues) and the New Yorker relies on records and interviews to detail an organization that seems to be hemorrhaging money from the top as it has evolved from supporting training and safety in the use of firearms into “a media company, promoting a lifestyle built around loving guns and hating anyone who might take them away.”
And in the process, it seems to have profited the few.
“A small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget, through gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements,” according to the article. “Memos created by a senior N.R.A. employee describe a workplace distinguished by secrecy, self-dealing, and greed, whose leaders have encouraged disastrous business ventures and questionable partnerships, and have marginalized those who object.”
The article should be an eye-opener for NRA members and loyalists.
The report goes on to detail disturbingly cozy dealings between the NRA and its longtime PR agency, Ackerman McQueen, and highly questionable dealings and relationships among related entities. Both the NRA and Ackerman McQueen disputed the report, but without specific accusations of inaccuracies. Interestingly, the NRA has filed a lawsuit against Ackerman over billing records, including the withholding of records about Oliver North — he of Iran-Contra fame — being employed by both the NRA and the agency.
The article should be an eye-opener for NRA members and loyalists. If, that is, they have enough independence to look at the NRA objectively.
“The litany of red flags is just extraordinary,” Marc Owens, a former top Internal Revenue Service official, told the Trace. “There is a tremendous range of what appears to be the misuse of assets for the benefit of certain venders and people in control…. Those facts, if confirmed, could lead to the revocation of the N.R.A.’s tax-exempt status.”
In fact, the Michael Bloomberg-funded Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group filed a complaint with the IRS urging an investigation into whether the organization violated the federal laws governing nonprofits based on the article and previous revelations of questionable dealings.
But that’s only one storm front confronting the NRA, as I rounded up last month. They include an investigation into whether Russian agents funneled money to the NRA that then was used in the 2016 election cycle, during which the NRA spent some $50 million backing Donald Trump and six Senate candidates (five of whom won).
If true, that too should spark a bit of soul-searching among NRA supporters who would have to deal with the notion that their beloved patriotism-shrouded organization worked with Russians to influence American elections. Not incidentally, using foreign-sourced money in such elections is illegal.