A Washington-based political watchdog group this week joined the call on the federal government to audit the National Rifle Association, saying the group failed to properly disclose its political activity over a six-year period.
The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sent requests to the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission on Tuesday demanding the agencies investigate the NRA Political Victory Fund and Institute for Legislative Action, the pro-gun group’s political and lobbying arms.
The NRA said the politically motivated accusations are baseless and the federal agencies wouldn’t bother auditing the gun rights group for what amounts to filing mistakes.
“CREW is a partisan organization with a political agenda and in this instance they are acting as a tool of gun control lobby to harass the NRA,” Jennifer Baker, NRA spokeswoman, told Guns.com on the record Thursday. “This ‘so-called’ complaint is baseless and nothing more than a PR stunt.”
The watchdog group’s call to action followed that of gun control group The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and was spurred by an April investigative report by Yahoo News which found some donations made to the NRA’s lobbying efforts actually went to its political activities.
The NRA in response to the report admitted it had made a coding error while collecting contributions during the course of four months in 2014, which resulted in $125,000 being misdirected out of the $50.8 million raised by the PVF and ILA combined that year.
Donald F. McGahn, former commissioner and chairman of the FEC, told the Washington Free Beacon the mistake is “not uncommon” and “isn’t a big deal.”
“What you look for isn’t so much the ‘gotcha’ glitch, it’s did they discover it? Did they take corrective action? Did they unwind whatever happened? In this case it looks like they did,” McGahn said.
Also acknowledged by the NRA was that its 2012 tax filings were incomplete, but it paid the more than $613,000 it owed on a separate form, the Free Beacon reported.
“The appropriate agencies need to subject the NRA’s finances to full scrutiny to determine whether the organization made a surprising series of separate, innocent mistakes, or simply isn’t bothering to follow the rules about disclosing its political activities,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder.
According to Yahoo, the NRA had some $33 million in corporate political expenditures between 2008 and 2013, but did answer “No” to a question on its IRS non-profit filing asking if the group engaged in such activities.
The NRA called it a clerical error.
“Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, all corporations, including the NRA, have the legal right and ability to engage in political campaign activity,” Baker wrote in a later email to Guns.com. “While far from our primary activity, the NRA has engaged in some legal political campaign activity. The NRA did not engage in any taxable corporate political campaign activity from 2007-2011; nor did we do so in 2013. The NRA did engage in this activity in 2012 and, despite Yahoo’s claims, paid all required taxes to the IRS. While a box was erroneously left unchecked and the information needed to confirm that the NRA did not spend a majority of our expenditures on political activities – which in fact we did not – was not provided, the assertion that this represents fraud on the NRA’s part is absurd – as is the suggestion that the NRA would file publicly-available documents that deliberately attempt to conceal any of our activities.”