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NRA faces new allegations about its spending practices

On his way out the door, Oliver North said there's "a clear crisis" within the NRA.That assessment is increasingly easy to believe.
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
The NRA-ILA Leadership Forum in Louisville, Ky. on May 20, 2016.

In late April, as former NRA president Oliver North was ousted from his post, North said in his resignation letter that there's "a clear crisis" within the right-wing organization.

That assessment is increasingly easy to believe. The Washington Post reported this morning on many of the National Rifle Association's unpaid board members benefiting financially from the group.

The NRA, which has been rocked by allegations of exorbitant spending by top executives, also directed money in recent years that went to board members -- the very people tasked with overseeing the organization's finances.In all, 18 members of the NRA's 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board's oversight as it steered the country's largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members.

While the NRA denied any wrongdoing, the Post spoke to Douglas Varley, an attorney who specializes in tax-exempt organizations. "In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this," Varley said. "The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing."

If this were the only sign of trouble for the organization, it might be easier to shrug off. But given the avalanche of questions surrounding the NRA's use -- and alleged misuse -- of its resources, it's hard not to see the latest revelations as part of a bigger picture.

Matt Stieb put together a helpful summary:

In May, leaked letters showed that CEO Wayne LaPierre had expensed $39,000 in clothing in a single day, $13,800 for rent for a summer intern, and $200,000 in plane tickets, in part related to a two-week trip to the Bahamas. In another released memo last month, former president Oliver North warned top NRA officials that $24 million in legal fees accrued in the last 13 months were “draining NRA cash at mind-boggling speed.”The organization, which spent more than any other outside group to help elect Trump, lost $17 million in 2017, the most recent year in which tax filings are available. Add to this the forced resignation of president Oliver North in April and an investigation launched by New York attorney general Letitia James into the NRA’s spending, an inquiry that could put the group’s nonprofit status at risk.

I'd just add that the New York Times also reported last month, "As the gun rights group lavished pay and perks on its leaders and partners, fueling infighting, it increasingly relied on its own charity for funds. Tax experts have questions."

Whether, and to what extent, NRA donors will be alarmed by any of this remains to be seen. But the Washington Post talked to Karl Malone, a retired basketball star and prominent NRA supporter who expressed concern.

"If these allegations are correct and 18 board members received pay, you're damn right I am," he said. "If it's correct, the members who pay their dues should be damn concerned, too."