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NRA admits some executives used nonprofit money for personal benefit

NRA admits some executives used nonprofit money for personal benefit
© Greg Nash

The National Rifle Association (NRA) admitted in a tax filing that some of the group’s current and former executives have used the nonprofit’s money for personal benefit. 

The NRA reported via a 2019 tax return obtained by The Washington Post, that it was investigating the alleged misuse of the nonprofits funds after it “became aware during 2019 of a significant diversion of its assets.”

According to the Post, the tax filing states that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and five former officials received “excess benefits,” a term the IRS uses to refer to officials boosting themselves at the expense of a nonprofit. 

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The admission comes after years of the NRA denying relaxed financial oversight and nearly four months since New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA over allegations of corporate law violations that resulted in a loss of more than $64 million over three years.

The defendants named in the 18-count lawsuit treated the 149-year-old nonprofit organization as their “personal piggy bank,” James argued, using it to finance everything from Caribbean vacations, expensive meals and the use of private jets.

Among the defendants is LaPierre himself, with the lawsuit arguing that the NRA leader hired some of the other defendants for senior executive positions, despite their lack of qualifications, in order to “facilitate his misuse of charitable assets.” 

However, the Post reported that the 2019 tax return suggests the organization is standing behind the chief executive while pursuing action against executives who have since left the nonprofit. 

The filing reportedly claims that LaPierre “corrected” his financial lapses with a repayment, while former executives “improperly” used NRA funds or charged the nonprofit for expenses that were “not appropriate.”

LaPierre has reportedly reimbursed the NRA close to $300,000 in travel expenses covering 2015 to 2019, although the tax return does not explain how the amount was determined or when it was paid by LaPierre.

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The NRA did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

The organization's spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said in a statement that “the vast majority of Mr. LaPierre’s travel was undertaken in strict compliance with NRA policy,” according to the Post.

Charles Cotton, an NRA vice president and audit committee chair, told the Post that “the NRA is committed to strict compliance with its accounting controls and goodgovernance practices.” 

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the IRS was investigating LaPierre, who has led the NRA since 1991, on suspicion of criminal tax fraud. 

LaPierre has frequently faced allegations of taking undisclosed compensation from both the NRA and vendors. Leaked documents indicate he charged more than $540,000 in clothing purchases to the NRA’s advertising firm. The NRA has defended these expenses as business-related.

A criminal tax investigation would mean the IRS is “looking for evidence of concealment,” Mark Matthews, former head of the IRS’s criminal investigation unit, told the Journal at the time.