The National Rifle Association is bleeding money and members, according to a financial audit obtained by CREW. Last year, the organization saw its worst fundraising totals in more than a decade, fueled by member dues that have fallen to lows not seen since the early 2000s. The fall has been so swift that the gun organization’s income from its members has been halved in just six years, while its legal fees have remained stratospheric.
According to the audit, which was filed with the Secretary of State’s office in North Carolina, the NRA raised more than $213 million in 2022, with more than $83 million coming from dues-paying members. The totals mark a 52 percent drop in overall revenue and a nearly 59 percent drop in membership dues since 2016, adjusting for inflation. A CREW analysis of NRA dues going back to 2004 could not find a single year where dues ever went below $100 million, in inflation-adjusted terms.
Compounding the NRA’s dire financial situation is the organization’s persistent legal battles that continue to cost millions. The audit shows a nearly $12.4 million settlement payment, linked to a legal battle the NRA fought with its former PR firm. In all, the NRA spent nearly $43.8 million on administrative “legal, audit, and taxes,” which is down from the nearly $46.8 million it spent in 2021, but still far higher than the $4.3 million it spent on the same costs in 2017, when its overall revenue was more than $319 million. Put another way, legal expenses went from about 1 percent of the NRA’s overall spending in 2017, to about 20 percent in 2021 and 2022, while its total revenue dropped by nearly 42 percent over the same period.
And the gun-rights organization’s legal troubles aren’t over. It is still fighting a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James in a case from 2020 alleging that senior leadership diverted millions of dollars away from the organization’s core mission, using the funds for personal benefit and to give sweetheart contracts to colleagues and family. In another case, the NRA is fighting a 2018 suit against a New York official who pushed banks and insurers to cease business relations with the NRA. The case—which NRA chief Wayne LaPierre told members in 2019 might lead to the organization shutting down “very soon”—was tossed by a federal appeals court in 2022, in favor of the New York official. The NRA appealed the case to the Supreme Court this year.
In a more mysterious development, the NRA also revived its dispute with its former PR firm, to which it already paid a $12 million settlement. This time the case is unfolding entirely in secret in Texas.
All of this takes place against a backdrop of intense internal turmoil at the organization. Some of the highest-ranking officials have resigned or been suspended, and some faced legal action. Meanwhile, staff has dwindled and core programs have been slashed. Yet, ironically, as the organization flounders, a conservative super-majority on the Supreme Court is handing the NRA more victories, thanks to three justices installed by the president the NRA helped elect, back when it was flush with cash.