Ethics Watchdog: NRA Is Lying About Its Political Spending

Ethics Watchdog: NRA Is Lying About Its Political Spending

The National Rifle Association might be misrepresenting the extent of its political activity, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The ethics watchdog filed a new complaint today with the IRS calling on the agency to investigate alleged discrepancies in political spending disclosures.

According to the complaint, the reported $12.6 million in political expenditures during the 2014 election cycle. However, it only reported $5.79 million in political spending to the IRS. And its annual audited statement showed that the group had covered $18.5 million of its PAC’s expenses—bringing the grand total of political expenditures up to $31.1 million.

When CREW first exposed the misreporting, the NRA admitted to the IRS that it had provided incorrect information in its filing. But in its most recent filing, CREW says that the NRA still hasn’t correctly documented the scope of its political spending, calling for a full investigation into the gun rights group’s political activity.

The complaint also states that the NRA told the IRS that it didn’t spend any money on lobbying despite Congressional lobbying disclosure records showing it spent millions. Additionally, the NRA told the IRS that it didn’t receive any money from membership dues despite the fact that it’s a membership-based organization that reportedly receives more than $100 million in dues each year.

“The NRA has a real problem with letting the IRS know about its political activity,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “Unless the IRS takes action, there’s no reason to believe this problem will end.”

CREW has been tracking the NRA’s political spending for years, noting consistent discrepancies between FEC and IRS filings. Conservatives have repeatedly alleged that the IRS unfairly targets right-wing political groups for tax investigations. Most recently, Republicans used a budget rider to curtail the agency’s ability to issue rule-making that would better define the parameters of a 501(c)4, the so-called social welfare groups that have become a haven for undisclosed political spending.

However, getting the IRS to initiate an investigation is unlikely, given that such action will no doubt be seen in the 2016 presidential election as partisan warfare.