The National Rifle Association, the notorious Second Amendment nonprofit that has become one of the three most politically influential groups in Washington, is apparently being used as a donation fundraising machine for the Republican Party. It is a clear violation of the campaign finance laws which desperately attempt to keep tabs on the billions of dollars that steadily engulf our democracy, eroding it away a little more every election cycle. With the upcoming 2016 election projected to see five billion dollars spent to sway American voters, efforts to keep the process transparent will be much more difficult and yet ever-more important, for the sake of our political integrity.
Yahoo News recently published a report exposing illegal transfers of funds from the NRA’s nonprofit to their lobbying group, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), and then to their PAC, the Political Victory Fund. The NRA has been soliciting donations from their members and then funneling the cash into the PAC, using funds which a member may have thought were for funding events but are now being put to use supporting a political candidate with whom he or she may not approve of, which is very illegal.
Their website also allows anyone to make donations with little more than a credit card number, allowing anyone to donate to their PAC without logging in as a NRA member, which is also illegal. Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center said that “It is impossible to see how they are soliciting funds the way they’re soliciting, and putting those funds in their political action committee, without violating the law.”
Brett Kappel, a political finance lawyer, found three clear violations: “First of all, they can’t be soliciting from the general public at their website. Then there’s the fact that the money is not being solicited in the name of the PAC; they have to say it’s for the PAC and what the political purpose of the PAC is. And then there are multiple missing disclaimers such as the disclaimer saying that contributions have to be voluntary.”
It should come as no surprise that one of the biggest pieces of the Republican propaganda/lobbying/fundraising machine is willfully ignoring the laws that govern its practices. It abuses its tax-exempt status to funnel millions ($37 million in 2014) to political campaigns supporting Republican Congressmen, who in turn keep any laws from passing that might help alleviate America’s epidemic of gun violence, which kills more than 30 people a day. The NRA’s recent mega-convention in Tennessee (sixteen acres of guns!) featured every single major and minor Republican presidential candidate (except Rand Paul, who they don’t like), giving the same tired prattle of Second Amendment rights and jingoistic paranoia about the threat of “Muslim terrorists”.
Their influence is a blight on American politics and their single-minded fanaticism contributes to millions of deaths every year. It’s about time they got caught doing something like this, and just goes to show how the Republican political machine does business- under the table and in the dark. Now if only someone would do something about it.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.