The attorney general for the District of Columbia, Karl A. Racine, has opened a new investigative front against the National Rifle Association, issuing subpoenas on Friday to the gun group and a large affiliated charity.
While the NRA is already under investigation in New York, where it was chartered nearly 150 years ago, its charity was created in Washington, giving Racine’s office local authority over the organization. Among other things, the new inquiry will examine how funds were moved between the NRA and the charity, known as the NRA Foundation, and whether that money was properly used for charitable purposes.
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that more than $200 million has flowed from the foundation to the NRA since 2010. That issue has also been a subject of scrutiny in the investigation by the New York attorney general, Letitia James. Donations to the foundation are tax-deductible, while donations to the NRA itself are not. The NRA has said all of the transfers were done properly.
In a statement Friday, Racine’s office said it had issued subpoenas “as part of an investigation into whether these entities violated the district’s Nonprofit Act.” The office said it was interested in examining “financial records, payments to vendors, and payments to officers and directors.”
The NRA’s outside counsel, William A. Brewer III, said in a statement that the group would “cooperate with any appropriate inquiry into its finances,” adding that its “financials are audited and its tax filings are verified by one of the most reputable firms in the world.”
Under local law, Racine’s office can go to court to seek to dissolve nonprofit corporations, or place them in receivership, if they are found to have misused funds. The office can also take other actions, including restricting the compensation paid to the group’s leadership.
Racine is the district’s first elected attorney general. In 2017, his office joined Maryland in suing President Donald Trump, claiming that profiting from government guests staying at his Washington hotel violated the Constitution. The case was dismissed this week by a federal appeals court panel.
The new NRA investigation comes amid a head-spinning year for the gun group, which is facing numerous legal battles, a rebellion among some donors and relentless infighting that led to the resignation of its second-in-command, Christopher W. Cox, last month, and the departure of its president, Oliver L. North, in April. So far, however, less than a handful of the NRA’s 76 board members have publicly criticized Wayne LaPierre, the longtime chief executive.
There have been a number of signs of financial stress in recent years. The NRA has put up the deed to its headquarters to secure a line of credit, borrowed against insurance policies taken out on executives, frozen its pension fund and grappled with escalating legal fees.
It has also become increasingly reliant on the NRA Foundation. Transfers from the foundation listed for charitable purposes have risen fivefold since 2001, and the NRA pulled roughly $30 million out of the charity in 2017, records show.
The investigation by Racine’s office will additionally examine whether the NRA used charitable funds to provide private benefits to NRA officials, and whether payments were improperly made by NRA contractors like Ackerman McQueen, the association’s former advertising firm, which paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for clothing and travel expenses for LaPierre.
Brewer, in his statement, said that “the association has an appropriate conflict-of-interest policy, which provides that all potential conflicts are reviewed and scrutinized by the Audit Committee. The NRA is committed to utilizing best practices in the areas of accounting and governance.”