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The NRA, In the Red and In Crisis

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According to its most recent publicly available tax returns, the National Rifle Association is millions of dollars in the red, for the second straight year. (Pixabay)
According to its most recent publicly available tax returns, the National Rifle Association is millions of dollars in the red, for the second straight year. (Pixabay)
 By Dan HeymanContact
April 29, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The National Rifle Association's leadership is in turmoil, it's in serious financial trouble and is suing an important, long-time vendor for allegedly overcharging the organization.

The nation's leading gun-rights group has also been an important political force for decades. But its president, Oliver North, just announced he won't serve another term after an ugly public split with its long-time chief executive.

Anna Massoglia, a researcher with the Center for Responsive Politics, a political-spending watchdog, said its most recent tax returns show the NRA is badly in the red.

"We saw a $55 million decline in income since the prior year, and the NRA spending into an $18 million deficit - a deficit that they have for now the second straight year,” Massoglia said. “And so, we're seeing the NRA pretty consistently now spending more than they're actually taking in."

The NRA is suing the company that runs its troubled broadcast arm, NRATV. And an article in the New Yorker magazine alleged a culture of huge salaries and extravagant spending among NRA officers and vendors. A lawyer for the group said the article was written by paid staff of an "anti-gun magazine."

According to the article, executives at the company named in the lawsuit - public relations firm Ackerman McQueen - have all but run the NRA for their own benefit for decades. A lawyer for the firm also said the New Yorker article is entirely untrue.

Massoglia said she can't judge the merits of the lawsuit. But she said the NRA's tax documents show that a different vendor - a fundraising company - made millions off its work for the gun-rights group.

"They kept over half of the money they had fund-raised - they had made about $10 million and kept over $5 million of that,” she said. “And so, you are seeing a variety of different vendors potentially profiting off of the NRA."

Speeches and public statements at the annual NRA convention largely avoided the lawsuit. The group continues to take a combative stance against long-time foes in the gun-control movement and the political left. Its charitable status is under investigation in New York, and its board is expected to address the leadership issue this week.

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