The IRS should investigate whether the National Rifle Association violated its tax-exempt status, according to a complaint filed today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The NRA appears to have violated federal tax law by making payments for the private benefit of its Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, and his family.
For much of the last decade as the NRA’s top executive, LaPierre has received a seven-figure salary, including over $2.2 million in 2018. Recent reports also revealed that the NRA reimbursed LaPierre for unusual and costly expenses, including more than $274,000 on wardrobe purchases and more than $243,000 on luxury travel, and that LaPierre took steps to obscure this lavish spending by routing it through the NRA’s long-time advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen. Those reports further revealed that the NRA has guaranteed LaPierre’s compensation even after his employment with the NRA ends and planned to purchase a mansion for him and his wife.
“The NRA appears to believe it can play by its own rules and allow its top executive to use the organization as his private slush fund,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “That is certainly not how tax-exempt non-profit organizations should operate, and not what the law allows.”
As a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4), “no part of the net earnings” of the NRA may inure “to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” LaPierre’s seemingly excessive compensation and expenses, coupled with his ability to direct NRA funds for his own benefit and his efforts to obscure his spending, warrant an investigation to determine if the NRA’s funds unlawfully inured to LaPierre’s private benefit.
“Spending $30 million to elect the president and having scores of powerful friends in Congress does not change the fact that all tax-exempt organizations must follow the law,” Bookbinder said. “The IRS should open an investigation right away.”
CREW previously filed IRS and FEC complaints based on tens of millions of dollars in undisclosed political spending by the NRA and violations of federal election law.