Editors Note: Much of the NRA family's dirty laundry we are seeing aired in public these last weeks are a direct result of the organization making updated disclosures to be in full governmental compliance ahead of the legal fight with New York state.
Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- The NRA is under attack for its financial practices. You might shrug, and ask, what else is new? Complaints about how the NRA structures its finances go back at least twenty years. Neal Knox was forced out of the NRA board, at least in part, for complaining about the influence of fundraising organizations at the NRA.
The difference this time is the NRA is being attacked by the Michael Bloomberg funded Everytown group. In the Everytown complaint against NRA Tax-Exempt status, they claim the NRA has been involved in “gratuitous payments, sweetheart deals, and opaque financial arrangements.”
While that may be true, it is hard to know if it rises to the level of criminal conduct. Non-profits are notorious for paying executives substantial salaries and expending vast amounts on fundraising.
This effort is coordinated with New York Governor Cuomo directing New York state agencies to discriminate against the NRA because he disagrees with the NRA's political message. From aclu.org:
But in a lawsuit the NRA filed against Cuomo this spring, the organization contends that he did more than criticize it. The NRA alleges that Cuomo and top members of his administration abused their regulatory authority over financial institutions to threaten New York banks and insurers that associate with the NRA or other “gun promotion” groups, and that those threats have jeopardized the NRA’s access to basic insurance and banking services in New York.
In the ACLU’s view, targeting a nonprofit advocacy group and seeking to deny it financial services because it promotes a lawful activity (the use of guns) violates the First Amendment. Because we believe the governor’s actions, as alleged, threaten the First Amendment rights of all advocacy organizations, the ACLU on Friday filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the NRA’s right to have its day in court.
Much of the attack on the NRA is trying to conflate the NRA 501(c)(4) status as a non-profit with some sort of generic claim that non-profits should not be involved in politics. This is direct obfuscation. 501(c)(4) organization are common, with many political goals. They include the AARP, the ACLU, and the NRA.
The NRA has the NRA-ILA as the political branch which is allowed direct political lobbying under the law. From the NRA-ILA:
The Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the lobbying arm of the NRA. Established in 1975, ILA is committed to preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
A powerhouse on the left is having a struggle on its own.
A counterpart to the NRA is the Southern Poverty Law Center, used by the left to attack anyone on the right who does not agree with them. The SPLC is in trouble. From the nonprofitquarterly.org:
At the end of last week, Cohen informed his staff that he, too, was leaving the organization, along with the center’s legal director and deputy legal director. These departures underscore that the issues at SPLC have been systemically enabled and not limited to one individual’s bad behavior.
Much of the odor around the SPLC comes from its financial conduct. Money corrupts, and SPLC has hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts.
I would like to say I know the NRA has acted with complete financial transparency and accountability. That is not what I have seen over the years.
Large, powerful, successful and well-financed organizations attract people who are looking to find a way to have some of the money funneled into their pockets. It takes significant controls and discipline to ensure the organization's money is spent wisely. The NRA does not have hundreds of millions in offshore bank accounts. The NRA pays the top echelon very well. The Everytown complaint claims there are conflicts of interest, where people in the NRA are paid both by vendors and the NRA.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I trust the Everytown organization. The attacks against the NRA may be based on minor peccadillos or significant error.
Like it or not, the NRA is the biggest organization standing in the way of those who wish to disarm the population of the United States. The NRA should be transparent and open in its budget. It should forbid conflicts of interest within the organization. Perhaps the current difficulties will result in a more open and stronger NRA.
Full disclosure: I have been an NRA life member, with voting rights, for over 40 years.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.