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Leaked Document Shows NRA Membership Dues Plummet, Legal Fees Skyrocket

October 31, 2020

According to the Washington Free Beacon, which obtained the NRA’s latest annual report, revenue from “membership dues to the NRA fell more than $57 million—or 33 percent—between 2018 and 2019” while “legal costs rose by 52 percent.” This news, published on the Friday night before the election, strongly suggests that membership has plummeted amid the organization’s myriad legal, financial, and internal troubles. 

Toplines from the annual report include: 

  • The NRA faces a sharp decline in membership dues: The NRA’s membership dues fell by more than $57 million between 2018 and 2019, a 33% decline. Additionally, according to the Free Beacon, membership dues in 2019 were “down more than $15 million—or 11 percent—from the previous non-election year of 2017.”
  • The NRA legal fees skyrocket: The NRA’s legal fees increased by 52% to more than $33 million. 
  • The NRA runs a deficit for the 4th year in a row: According to the Free Beacon, the NRA “ran a $16 million deficit in 2019,” making it four straight years where the NRA has run a deficit. 
  • The NRA cuts funding for core programs: The NRA cut spending for its stated core mission of “safety, education, & training,” by $4 million, or 13%. For the second year in a row, these programs accounted for less than 10% of overall NRA spending. 
  • The NRA cuts other expenses: According to the Free Beacon, the NRA “cut expenses across the board by more than $73 million—or 17 percent—with legislative programs and public affairs taking the largest hits.” 

This news comes at a time when the NRA is already mired in immense financial, legal, and internal turmoil. 

  • Financial: The NRA recently reportedly laid off and furloughed over 200 employees due to financial struggles. Earlier this year, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said that the NRA suffered “about a $100 million hit” in 2018 and 2019, and that for the NRA “to survive,” he took “about $80 million” out of the budget. This follows years of alleged financial mismanagement, during which NRA executive pay has skyrocketed, money has flowed to “unpaid” board members, and the NRA’s own board members and accountants have called into question lavish, legally suspect personal spending by its leadership.
  • Legal: Earlier this year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit seeking to dissolve the NRA for violating New York charities law. On the same day, DC Attorney General Karl Racine sued the NRA for allegedly exerting undue influence over the NRA Foundation. Additionally, the NRA was recently hit with a class action lawsuit, and it was already facing charges by New York State’s Department of Financial Services, and locked in various lawsuits with former business partner Ackerman McQueen. As a result of these legal troubles, the Trace reported allegations that the NRA paid its top lawyer an estimated “$54 million” in the last two years alone.  
  • Internal: Experts believe that Wayne LaPierre’s removal is “a foregone conclusion” due to the NRA’s legal troubles. Additionally, according to The Guardian, the NRA’s “drop in revenues accelerated in 2019 when several large NRA donors began a drive to oust LaPierre over allegations of mismanagement and self-dealing, and to promote reforms.” These donors have boasted that “$165 million in donations and planned gifts had been withheld.” 

A detailed history of the NRA’s finances and litigation can be found on

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