Dems Ask IRS to Investigate Tax-Exempt Status for NRA After Legal Troubles

Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday to consider launching an investigation into whether the National Rifle Association (NRA) is adhering to policies that enable it to function as a non-profit organization.

The request comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James against the NRA. James said in August that her office intended to dissolve the NRA "in its entirety." The lawsuit alleges over $64 million earmarked for charitable operations within the organization went to personal expenses for NRA leadership.

"Tax-exempt status is a privilege," the letter to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig read. "The American people rightly expect any organization that skirts the rules for personal gain be excluded from this privileged status."

"We are concerned that the allegations made by the Attorneys General of New York and the District of Columbia outline not only ongoing abuse at the NRA and NRA Foundation, but also a long-term pattern of diminished enforcement by the IRS," the letter continued. "Without proper enforcement of these tax provisions, the American people are effectively subsidizing self-dealing and gross mismanagement within organizations like the NRA and NRA Foundation that appear to have grossly abused their status."

Newsweek reached out to the NRA for comment.

wayne lapierre
National Rifle Association Executive Vice-President was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General's office in August. Scott Olson/Getty

Originally founded as a firearms education group, the NRA began actively lobbying Congress in 1975 concerning legislation connected with Second Amendment rights. In 1990, the association established the NRA Foundation, a tax-exempt organization designed to raise funds for educational and firearms safety programs. Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible. Both the NRA and the NRA Foundation are named in the lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General's office.

NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre is alleged to have used organization funding to pay for private flights for himself and family members. LaPierre also allegedly expensed over $1.2 million for items such as gifts for vendors, travel expenses for himself and members of his family and membership fees at exclusive clubs and hotels.

LaPierre also filled administrative positions within the NRA with individuals who were allegedly loyal to him regardless of their lack of qualifications. Under LaPierre's authority, the lawsuit alleges, NRA directors were able to redirect funds to "NRA insiders and favored vendors."

As a resolution, the lawsuit seeks to obtain financial restitution from LaPierre and the other defendants for charitable funds lost while ensuring that the defendants are barred from serving on the board of a non-profit organization in New York.

"The NRA's influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets," said Attorney General James. "The NRA is fraught with fraud and abuse, which is why, today, we seek to dissolve the NRA, because no organization is above the law."

In an August statement responding to James' lawsuit, LaPierre said the NRA was "well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance."

"We're ready for the fight," LaPierre added. "Bring it on."