The National Rifle Association (NRA) might have been breaking federal election laws for years by using funds raised for the NRA itself for the NRA’s political action committee instead, according to a Yahoo News investigation published yesterday.
From the report:
The [Federal Election Campaign Act] makes a hard distinction between solicitations for elections and other solicitations, in part because many Americans don’t like donating to politicians. An NRA member might contribute to the organization because she admires its work on behalf of hunters. She might also contribute to an environmental group because she wants to preserve forests. But this same donor may vehemently oppose the candidates endorsed in federal elections by both the NRA and the environmental group. As a result, the law makes it clear that when these groups are soliciting for electoral purposes they must disclose that fact to potential donors.
If a private citizen says he’s raising money for a cancer charity and deposits the money into his personal bank account, he can be prosecuted for committing a fraud. Similarly, under federal election law, … the NRA can’t claim to be raising money for the corporation … and then deposit that money into the account of its PAC. But that’s precisely what the NRA did…
The NRA possibly also violated federal law that prohibits soliciting money for a “connected PAC” from anyone outside the group’s members/employees and a “provision that says Internet solicitations must be at websites that are accessible only to members, not the general public.”
Aside from the election laws it appears it broke, the NRA likely violated federal tax laws as well, failing to “report tens of millions of dollars in political expenditures made in connection with federal election campaigns.”
Because it is categorized as a “social welfare” organization, the NRA is allowed to engage in a wider array of political activities than other non-profit groups like the Red Cross or the United Way.
“In return for this broader authority to engage in politics, the IRS insists that tax-exempt groups like the NRA report all their corporate political expenditures,” reported Yahoo News. From 2007 to 2013, the NRA did not report any of the more than $34 million it spent on elections.
It’s not surprising that the NRA has been breaking laws for years without consequences. The amount of money they put in politicians’ pockets has bought the organization more protection than guns ever could.