Between a New York Attorney General’s investigation into the NRA’s nonprofit status amid reports of financial mismanagement and self-dealing and an internal power struggle between NRA insiders, political analysts told the Guardian that the NRA may not have the financial resources to match its 2016 election spending.
The NRA was President Donald Trump’s top outside backer in 2016, spending more than $30 million on his election and at least $55 million overall. Two NRA sources told McClatchy that the organization’s total spending in 2016 was at least $70 million, including election spending that did not have to be reported to the FEC. However, in the 2018 midterm elections, gun safety groups outspent the NRA for the first time in history.
“‘For the NRA to be an important player in national politics, it needs to have a visible presence in electioneering,’ said Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at State University of New York College at Cortland who has written five books on guns issues. ‘But given their money and legal woes, that is highly unlikely, meaning that the NRA’s issues and goals will be marginalized in the elections to come.’
“Spitzer predicted that unlike 2016, the NRA ‘will not have the money or resources for 2020 to be an important presence’.
“That view could prove overly dire, but if the NRA’s weak spending and poor showing in the 2018 midterm elections is any guide, the organization may well have a tough time next year matching its 2016 election magic.
“When Democrats regained the House in the 2018 elections, the NRA’s spending was an anemic $9.4m, only about a third of what it spent in the 2014 midterms. For the first time ever, the NRA was outspent by pro-gun control groups.
“The group’s lackluster spending in 2018 was at least partly attributable to big financial losses the group posted in 2016 and 2017 that combined for a total $64m.”
The Guardian report is just the latest in a spate of bad news for the NRA. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre charged the organization’s ad agency, Ackerman McQueen more than $240,000 for expenses “related to international trips he took without providing adequate documentation.” Among the trips were lavish stays in the Bahamas, Italy, and Reno, Nevada.
Also last week, members of the Senate Committee on Finance including Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sent letters to LaPierre, former NRA president Oliver North and Ackerman McQueen to turn over “letters, third-party audits, memos and other materials as they look into allegations of self-dealing and examine the NRA’s nonprofit status,” according to the Washington Post.
Last month, a stunning New Yorker/Trace report detailed how “a small group of N.R.A. executives, contractors, and venders has extracted hundreds of millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget.” In response to the report, Everytown has called on Congress and state charities regulators to investigate the NRA, its officers and board members to identify any violations of laws governing charities and has lodged a formal complaint with the IRS.
During last month’s NRA convention, reports surfaced that LaPierre had claimed North was extorting him to force him to resign. Shortly after, North announced he wouldn’t be running for reelection after serving just one of the customary two one-year terms, warning board members that the organization could lose its nonprofit status.