The District’s attorney general issued subpoenas Friday to the National Rifle Association and its charitable foundation, putting additional pressure on the embattled gun rights organization from nonprofit regulators.
The office of Attorney General Karl A. Racine is seeking financial documents from the NRA and its foundation. The NRA Foundation is chartered in the District, and the NRA is registered as a nonprofit and does business there.
“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,” Racine said in a statement.
He continued: “We are seeking documents from these two nonprofits detailing, among other things, their financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.”
William A. Brewer III, the NRA’s outside counsel, said in a statement that the organization will cooperate with “any appropriate inquiry” into its finances.
“The NRA has full confidence in its accounting practices and commitment to good governance,” Brewer said, noting the organization’s financial statements are audited and that it is “committed to utilizing best practices” in accounting and governance.
Racine’s office has jurisdiction over nonprofits. It can seek court action to dissolve or place into receivership a nonprofit that misuses funds or does not act in accordance with its stated mission.
Racine’s subpoenas come as the organization is under mounting internal and external pressure. They are the second state legal action taken against the NRA in recent months.
In April, New York Attorney General Letitia James also issued subpoenas to the NRA and its foundation seeking financial records about its tax-exempt status. The NRA was chartered in New York in 1871.
Racine’s inquiry into payments to officers and directors comes after The Washington Post reported last month that 18 of the NRA’s 76 board members collected money from the NRA during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence. They include a former National Football League player who received $400,000 for public outreach and firearms training, and a writer who was paid more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications.
NRA board members are tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances.
The NRA is also enmeshed in a lawsuit with New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who issued a directive last year urging insurance and financial services companies to review their relationships with the organization. It came after a state investigation found the NRA’s “Carry Guard” insurance product to be illegal under New York law.
Scrutiny of the organization has also increased on Capitol Hill. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been investigating the organization, looking for answers about financial and other ties between the organization and Russia. Two Democratic House members have written to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, stating they were concerned about a “complex web of relationships” between the organization and Russia.
The NRA also has been grappling with growing internal strife in recent months. In the past several weeks, it has seen its top lobbyist resign and its television arm shut down, and has severed all business with its longtime public relations firm, which helped brand the NRA as a hard-edged organization that would defend gun rights at all costs.
The NRA’s top lobbyist, Christopher W. Cox, resigned last month after being accused of being part of an extortion scheme to oust LaPierre. Cox had led the organization’s political and lobbying arm since 2002 and was considered one of its most effective and high-profile leaders. The political arm spent more than $30 million to help elect President Trump.
In April, LaPierre accused former NRA president Oliver North of extortion, claiming North threatened to reveal damaging financial information if LaPierre did not step down and withdraw the NRA from a lawsuit against its longtime and now estranged public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen.
The organization has been rocked by revelations of exorbitant spending by top executives, including that LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel, according to invoices.
North, who stepped down from his post after the allegations, also claimed the NRA spent $24 million in legal bills last year. The allegations come as the organization’s 2018 financial report show that the nonprofit, its four affiliated charities and its political committee ended the year $10.8 million in the red.
The report shows that the NRA increased spending on overhead including legal fees, travel, entertainment and office supplies, while cutting money to its core missions, including gun training and political spending.