The years of riding high on its power wave are over for the National Rifle Association (NRA). What caused the beginning of the NRA’s demise? Here is a hint: it had something to do with the Russians.
If the NRA leaders had not been so certain of their invincibility, they might have taken time to consider whether all the wining-and-dining lavished on them by the Russians was legitimate. It came as no surprise that these same men were taken in by an attractive, charming, gun-toting young woman with a Russian accent, Maria Butina. Why then, have NRA members been jumping ship as if was the Titanic?
These same Americans were totally taken in by the Russians’ invitation to come to Moscow and enjoy their high life. The NRA leadership should have asked one simple question about the enthusiasm their hosts expressed for an NRA chapter in Russia? Can citizens of that big country legally buy guns? The answer is no.
The NRA has been an organization to be reckoned with among politicians. This interest group has been able spread fear among politicians, because it used its deep coffers to make or break candidates. The NRA has been especially devastating in more rural states, but all states have felt its power.
The results of a new third-party audit of the NRA showed some serious questions about the organization’s long-term financial viability. For the last two years, the number of dues-paying members has dropped like a rock, especially after news reports showed that the Russian government may have funneled money through the NRA to throw the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. Nevermind that Butina has been jailed as a Russian spy.
Recent reports have uncovered the group spent $54.4 million on Republican candidates in the 2016 election, at a minimum. Trump was the largest recipient by far. The NRA gave him a whopping $31.2 million.
Most of that money was filtered though the organization’s nonprofit 501(c)(4) group. That meant, the NRA did not have to reveal where all of those millions of dark money originated.
The 501(c)(4) nonprofits have not been able to focus solely on politics as their missions. However, they have gotten around that by raising and spending money from anonymous donors — in unlimited amounts. There has been little IRS and FEC (Federal Election Commission) oversight, thus far.
Between 2015 and 2016, the NRA had a sharp increase in its donations, “a $100 million spike,” according to OpenSecrets. The trouble with pouring out all that money was NRA membership did not continue to rise high enough to counterbalance the expenditures.
At this time, the NRA has a $14.8 million-plus deficit. In 2017, the group’s spending dropped $76 million, after its revenues dropped $56 million.
Accounting professor at Ohio State University, Brian Mittendorf, said:
‘Their current business model cannot be sustained the way it is going. It can be sustained in the short term, but not the long term. The financial statements would indicate that. The big takeaway is that there were some red flags about their long-term financial health in 2016, and nothing alleviates those concerns in their 2017 financials. If anything, it shows they’re coming to fruition.’
‘It’s not extremely uncommon for an organization of its size and stature to be in that circumstance. It would say to me, though, that something needs to give at some point. Either they need to shrink or find new sources of revenue.’
The Russians played the NRA.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.