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Verdicts & Settlements

NRA and DC Attorney General Settle Lawsuit Alleging Misuse of Charitable Donations

— April 18, 2024

Under the terms of the agreement, the National Rifle Association and its charitable arrn–the NRA Foundation–will be required to form an “Audit Committee” and take other measures to ensure that future donations are not funneled from the non-profit back to the NRA.

The National Rifle Association has reached a settlement with Washington, DC, which had accused the firearms advocacy organization of misappropriating charitable donations.

If approved, the agreement will end nearly four years of litigation.

The lawsuit, filed by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia in 2020, suggested that the National Rifle Association had misused more than $10 million in tax-deductible donations sent to its non-profit subsidiary, the NRA Foundation.

According to D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, the NRA Foundation violated the “sacred public trust” provided to non-profits by “allowing the NRA to use [the foundation] as an unchecked piggy bank.”

Under the terms of the settlement, the NRA will be subject to stringent oversight and will be required to enact “extensive operational changes” to prevent any future financial entanglements between the National Rifle Foundation and the NRA Foundation.

“Donors are entitled to know that their charitable contributions will be used in furtherance of a nonprofit organization’s stated charitable mission. The NRA Foundation—the charitable arm of the NRA—violated this sacred public trust, allowing the NRA to use them as an unchecked piggy bank,” Schwalb said in a recent press release. “Caving to pressure from the NRA, the Foundation diverted millions of dollars to the NRA in grants and risky loans that were repaid only after the [Office of the Attorney General] filed its lawsuit.”

Former NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. Image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-3.0)

“Tax-exempt nonprofits,” Schwalb said, “are a form of public trust—abusing that trust as the NRA did violates both the public interest and District law. Today’s outcome builds on our longstanding commitment to safeguarding nonprofit donors’ money and ensuring that all nonprofits operating in the District of Columbia follow the law.”

The NRA, which will not be required to admit to any wrongdoing, has since cast the agreement as a significant victory—and posited Schwalb’s assessment of the settlement as “distorted and untruthful.”

“This is further proof of the NRA’s commitment to good governance,” said NRA President Charles Cotton. “The NRA confronted this political attack—and emergences from this lawsuit strong, secure, and vindicated.”

The association’s general counsel, William Brewer, emphasized Cotton’s latter claim of politically-motivated litigation.

“The DCAG ‘spins’ today’s settlement in avoidance of the facts: the DCAG long ago abandoned any claims of wrongdoing against the NRA,” Brewer said. “Even by DC standards, this is rank political gamesmanship—an after-the-fact justification for a failed lawsuit by these officials.”

However, the National Rifle Association recently wound up on the losing end of a New York corruption trial, in which a jury found several of its top executives hit with multimillion-dollar penalties for the misuse of funds. As has reported before, New York’s own attorney general alleged that NRA leadership—including its former long-time CEO, Wayne LaPierre—spent massive amounts of money on chartered flights, luxury vacations, and designer clothing.

The NRA, said New York Attorney General Letitia James, fostered and facilitating “a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight,” costing the organization an estimated $64 million in unnecessary expenditures over the course of about three years.


Attorney General James Wins Trial Against NRA and Wayne LaPierre

Attorney General Schwalb Forces NRA Foundation Reform After NRA Used Charitable Donations Without Oversight

DC sues the NRA Foundation for alleged misused funds

NRA promises to reform charitable arm in new settlement with DC attorney general

N.R.A. to Overhaul Charity It’s Accused of Using as a ‘Piggy Bank’

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