New York Attorney General Letitia James has opened an inquiry into the tax-exempt status of the NRA, which is chartered in New York. Letters were sent last week to the NRA and affiliated entities, including its charitable foundation, to preserve financial records, and the New York Times reported that some of NRA’s related businesses received subpoenas. The NRA said it would cooperate with the probe, but earlier it accused the attorney general of going on “a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.” Mr. Trump echoed that criticism with a tweet Monday that the NRA was “under siege by [New York Gov. Andrew M.] Cuomo and the New York State A.G., who are illegally using the state’s legal apparatus” to destroy the NRA.
Law enforcement should always be cautious in going after advocacy organizations, particularly when, as in this case, they are on opposite sides of a partisan divide. Ms. James’s earlier inflammatory language only underlines that point. A Democrat, she made scrutiny of the NRA and its tax status a platform in her 2018 campaign, telling Ebony magazine that the organization held itself out “as a charitable organization” but was in fact “a terrorist organization.”
However, the NRA’s own actions furnish strong argument for an investigation. Reporting by the Trace and the New Yorker found hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable payments flowing from the nonprofit to a small group of NRA executives, contractors and vendors. Soon after their jointly produced article appeared, NRA President Oliver North was ousted in a power struggle with longtime chief executive Wayne LaPierre. Mr. North raised concerns about the handling of the group’s finances and possible loss of its nonprofit status. Mr. LaPierre countered that Mr. North had tried to extort him to resign, and on Monday Mr. LaPierre was given a unanimous vote of confidence from the board. We find the political pressure this organization wields against common-sense gun laws to be odious, but that is not the issue here. Rather, as Ms. James said in a response to Mr. Trump’s tweet, the issue is making sure the laws that apply to nonprofits are properly and fairly enforced.