Spending

NRA spends more on lawyers as revenue drops and memberships lag | Nation

The National Rifle Association’s revenue continues to decline as record legal bills consume a growing portion of its budget.

The gun rights group generated $139.7 million in the first eight months of the year, according to an internal NRA document reviewed by Bloomberg. During the same period, the NRA General Counsel’s Office spent more than $40 million, the documents show. The organization’s annual revenue is on track to be the lowest in more than a decade, with legal fees for 2022 approaching $60 million, which is expected to top previous records.

One of the reasons for the decline was the backlog of memberships, which are the main source of revenue and are well below the organization’s expectations, the document says. NRA revenues have fallen from their peak of $367 million in 2016 and legal fees have risen since reports of improper spending surfaced in 2019.

The new look at the organization’s finances comes as it defends itself against a New York investigation into its financial practices. New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the nonprofit and its executives for mismanagement and insider trading, which the NRA denies.

Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s managing director of public affairs, said it would be inaccurate to compare the NRA’s partial-year figures with previous full-year results, as it “ignores the cyclical nature of the NRA’s business. association and does not take into account current fundraising activity, membership and NRA events.”

The NRA’s legal fees are “an investment in the association and its fight for survival,” Arulanandam said in an email, adding that the legal expenses are intended to defend the association and its constitutional freedoms.

Revenue from NRA members reached $79.7 million this year through August, well below the $110.7 million budgeted for the period, according to the internal document. Although the total by the end of the year could exceed $97 million raised in 2021, it will likely be less than $120 million in 2020.

Revenue from the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, a lobbying arm, was also well under budget in the eight months to August.

Political spending

Despite declining revenues, the NRA has remained a significant presence in US elections.

During the 2022 midterm election cycle, NRA affiliates spent an estimated $10.1 million supporting Republicans or opposing Democrats, according to data compiled by nonprofit OpenSecrets. formerly known as the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s well below the $30 million deployed in the 2020 presidential election cycle, but on par with the group’s midterm spending in 2018.

“The political arms of the NRA continue to insert themselves into political races,” says Anna Massoglia, head of editorial and investigative work at OpenSecrets. “It’s not at the same level as 2016, but we’re seeing it in Senate races in Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada.”

At its peak, the NRA invested $56 million in the 2016 election cycle and was the biggest contributor to the success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to government data compiled by Open Secrets.

“The NRA continues to invest in key issues and candidates who support the Second Amendment,” Arulanandam said. “As an example, the NRA’s efforts led to the adoption of constitutional portage in 25 states.”

New York trial

The NRA’s finances and reputation as an advocate for the Second Amendment and conservative political causes have been hit since 2019, when reports emerged that it had used millions of dollars to fund lavish lifestyles for its senior leaders. James sued the NRA, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and three other officials the following year.

The NRA and the individual defendants, two of whom have left the group, will face James’ allegations in New York state court in the coming months. The judge handling the case rejected a proposal by James to resolve a ruling in his favor by disbanding the NRA and redistributing its assets.

According to the internal document, the NRA has made up for its declining revenue and rising legal costs by cutting spending on core member programs and drastically reducing staff.

Some of the cuts were related to the global pandemic, which has impacted NRA events and public programs, Arulanandam said.

“Even though it voluntarily canceled countless events due to safety protocols, the NRA emerged from this health crisis a focused and determined organization,” Arulanandam said.

Total NRA spending of $288.3 million last year fell $241.7 million in 2020 and was down 45% from its peak in 2016, according to a 2021 financial statement.