Internal NRA Memos Reveal Hidden Payments to Enrich Top Executives
Marc Owens, who served for 10 years as the head of the Internal Revenue Service division that oversees tax-exempt enterprises, recently reviewed these records. “The litany of red flags is just extraordinary,” he said. “The materials reflect one of the broadest arrays of likely transgressions that I’ve ever seen. There is a tremendous range of what appears to be the misuse of assets for the benefit of certain vendors and people in control.” Owens added, “Those facts, if confirmed, could lead to the revocation of the NRA’s tax-exempt status” — without which the organization could likely not survive.
In its early days, the NRA was more interested in shooting than in politics. It was founded by two former Union Army officers, who returned from the Civil War dismayed at having been outshot by their Confederate counterparts and hoping to inspire a culture of marksmanship in the North. For more than a century, the NRA’s primary concerns were hunting, firearms education, and gun safety. Then, in 1977, a decade after the Federal Gun Control Act restricted firearms sales, activist board members seized control of the group and transformed it into an advocacy organization for gun owners’ rights. Officials knew that this new mission would require a more sophisticated approach to public relations. An NRA executive suggested hiring Ackerman McQueen, which was run by a personal friend.