The NRA Has Some Lessons For SarahPAC On How To Cheat At Campaign Finance

You will probably find this very difficult to believe, but it's possible that the National Rifle Association is a big lying liar. No, not just about how guns are the only thing standing between freedom and tyranny, or about the how everyone needs a gun to safely get through breakfast, or even about how the Second Amendment was handed down from Jesus so that America would always be God's favorite country. No, it seems that the NRA may also have lied a whole bunch, for years, to the IRS. And also may have violated several federal campaign finance laws, too. Fortunately, the NRA probably doesn't have to worry too much -- if there's one organization that's exempt from following piddly little laws, it's the NRA, because your average charity doesn't have a bunch of armed radicals ready to start shooting if they think the feds are going to take their guns away. Which is what making the NRA follow campaign and tax laws would be, you just know it.

Somewhat surprisingly, the great big investigative report on the NRA's tax and campaign finance shenanigans comes from Yahoo News, which is apparently quite serious about doing Journalism now. It's worth the time to read Alan Berlow's terrific investigation of the many ways in which the NRA may be moving money around in violation of federal law. And in a post-Citizens United world, that actually takes some effort!

Needless to say, despite the documentation in the article, this is all just propaganda by the liberal media, which is, as always, trying to make the NRA look bad because they hate freedom.

Oops, Probably Just Forgot To Mention That To The IRS

As we all know, the National Rifle Association is a big ol' tax-exempt charity organization, and as such, it's only allowed to do a limited amount of political campaign stuff. Which, under recent court rulings, still allows for a hell of a lot of political activity. And nobody at all is surprised that the NRA has spent millions in recent elections. But here's the dealio, according to Berlow's investigation: The NRA has spent a buttload on political activities. Based on its filings with the Federal Elections Commission, more than $34 million between 2007 and 20013. But by some miracle, the NRA also failed to report a cent of that political spending in its annual tax filings with the IRS. And in fact, despite telling the FEC all about its political spending, on tax forms for those years, the NRA just plain checked "No" in the box asking, “Did the organization engage in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office?”

Maybe it was just a little oversight, like the time North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers's husband forgot to lock the garage, and somebody stoled his assault rifle.

As Berlow notes, the NRA's campaign spending was all legal -- but it was also supposed to be reported to the IRS. And of the top 25 "charitable organizations" that spent enormous amounts in the 2012 election cycle, the NRA was the only one that didn't report its spending, apparently secure in the knowledge that if the IRS tried to do anything about it, the Second Amendment allows the NRA to shoot them. Oh, also, since some campaign spending by nonprofit groups actually is taxable, it's likely that, based on internal NRA reports Berlow obtained, the group might have avoided paying $600,000 in taxes on its 2012 campaign activities, which is a lot of money, even for the NRA. But hey, can you really put a price on freedom? Haha, of course you can -- nobody is in the business of handing out AR-15s for free, except for some churches, as door prizes.

And The There's The Contributions Shell Game

In addition to its own campaign spending, the NRA also operates a Political Action Committee, the "National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund" (NRA-PVF), which is allowed to not only buy ads and do campaigning, but is also able to make direct contributions to candidates, which PVF has done with gusto like a good little multimillion-dollar PAC should. There's just one teensy little problem: Berlow uncovered evidence that contributions made to the NRA mothership appear to get funneled into its PAC, which is a big no-no in campaign finance, although it's not as big a no-no as shooting your nephew dead with an "unloaded" gun while showing off your bitchin' new laser sight.

Berlow tested this through the ingenious method of making a one dollar contribution at the website of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), which is supposed to be limited to political research and lobbying. But according to Berlow's VISA statement (and he double-checked it with the credit card company), that dollar magically made its way to the Political Victory Fund, a transfer that almost certainly violated federal law. Basically, the NRA appears to be running its very own internal political money-laundering, taking contributions to its tax-exempt "charity" arms and sending them to its PAC. And no matter how many Yahoo commenters whine that everybody who contributes to the NRA knows they're giving to a political organization, that still doesn't make it legal. The NRA has a history of this financial sleight of hand, having been caught at it by the FEC in 1983 and again in 1991. We guess old habits die hard, nowhere near as easily as a mom shot by her toddler.

We'd look forward to the NRA getting its comeuppance -- like Al Capone -- because it was doing tax fraud, but we're not getting our hopes up. If the IRS actually did audit the NRA, you can bet that would be the start of the second Civil War that so many gun-humpers have been looking forward to.

[Yahoo News via RawStory / Image adapted from "Absolute Power" by Justine Smith]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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