Highlights from The Trace

NRA Membership Revenue Plummeted by 34% Last Year, While Its Legal Fees Skyrocketed

According to a new report by The Trace, “the National Rifle Association’s revenue from member dues cratered and legal costs soared in 2019.” Specifically, revenue from member dues declined by 34% from $170 million in 2018 to $113 million in 2019, while the NRA’s “legal, audit, and tax costs” increased by 39% from $31 million in 2018 to $43 million in 2019. 

The Trace report, which is based on an audited financial statement that the NRA “recently provided to the North Carolina secretary of state,” tells the full story: 

  • The NRA is losing money –– and it has been for years: The Trace reports that “[t]he audit shows that the NRA operated in the red in 2019, as it has since 2016.” This analysis was provided by Brian Mittendorf, a professor of accounting at The Ohio State University who has studied the NRA’s finances. Mittendorf added that, “No matter how you interpret it, things have gotten worse. They are in the hole by $50 million if you are talking about the assets that they have at their discretion.”
  • The NRA is $57 million in debt: “In March 2019, according to the audit, the NRA took out a $10 million line of credit against its Fairfax, Virginia, headquarters. That was in addition to an existing $28 million line of credit also secured by the building, the audit notes. In 2021, the group has $35 million due on those credit lines and other debt, the audit states. The NRA’s total debt obligation as of December was $57 million.”

This news comes at a time when the NRA is mired in immense financial, legal, and internal turmoil. 

  • Financial: The NRA recently reportedly laid off and furloughed over 200 employees due to financial struggles. Earlier this year, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said that the NRA suffered “about a $100 million hit” in 2018 and 2019, and that for the NRA “to survive,” he took “about $80 million” out of the budget. This follows years of alleged financial mismanagement, during which NRA executive pay has skyrocketed, money has flowed to “unpaid” board members, and the NRA’s own board members and accountants have called into question lavish, legally suspect personal spending by its leadership.
  • Legal: Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit seeking to dissolve the NRA for violating New York charities law. On the same day, DC Attorney General Karl Racine sued the NRA for allegedly exerting undue influence over the NRA Foundation. Additionally, the NRA was recently hit with a class action lawsuit, and it was already facing charges by New York State’s Department of Financial Services, and locked in various lawsuits with former business partner Ackerman McQueen. As a result of these legal troubles, the Trace reported allegations that the NRA paid its top lawyer an estimated “$54 million” in the last two years alone.  
  • Internal: Experts believe that Wayne LaPierre’s removal is “a foregone conclusion” due to the NRA’s legal troubles. Additionally, according to The Guardian, the NRA’s “drop in revenues accelerated in 2019 when several large NRA donors began a drive to oust LaPierre over allegations of mismanagement and self-dealing, and to promote reforms.” These donors have boasted that “$165 million in donations and planned gifts had been withheld.”