According to an extensive report, the National Rifle Association was using money from their donors to fund the lavish lifestyles of their board members and vendors.
The Washington Post revealed the findings Sunday in a bombshell report about the misuse of funds being uncovered in the organization.
For example, a former pro-football player was on the national board and paid $400,000 to do "public outreach" and "firearms training." A writer in New Mexico was given $28,000 for writing articles for an NRA publication. Another board member sold ammunition to the NRA for an "undisclosed sum."
The organization has been dealing with an internal battle for several months, as two factions are fighting about the future of the group. The recent president was dethroned, and CEO Wayne Lapierre is back to steering the direction of their work.
The NRA has drawn a lot of attention for their considerable donations that were outside of the norm in 2016. Progressive activists and political analysts have wondered if the money was coming from a foreign entity so that the funds could be spent to support Donald Trump. At least 20 Russian donors were uncovered for donating to the group.
The Wall Street Journal reported last year week that LaPierre racked up hefty expenses totaling $275,000 in "personal charges" at a single store in Beverly Hills. He spent approximately $253,000 in luxury travel to Italy, Budapest, and the Bahamas. He also paid $13,800 to rent an apartment for a summer intern.
The NRA has 76 members of its board of directors who are not paid for their service. However, previous reports speculated at least 17 of those managed to score cash from the group over the last three years, the Post reported. However, payments were received by about one-quarter of the members.
CEO Wayne LaPierre was one of the primary beneficiaries to the funds, scoring hundreds of thousands in charges from a Beverly Hills clothing boutique as well as foreign travel.
"NRA officials said LaPierre's wardrobe allowance began 15 years ago and that he was urged by Ackerman to make the purchases for his public appearances, a practice that they said has since been discontinued," reported the Post. "They said his travel was necessary for fundraising. The apartment was secured for a three-month summer internship when university housing typically used was unavailable."
"I will be the first person to get in your face about defending the Second Amendment, but I will not defend corruption and cronyism and fearmongering," said lifetime NRA member Vanessa Ross.
Previous leader, Oliver North, was ousted for trying to stage a coup against LaPierre. He was set to make millions off of a public relations agency contract between the NRA and an Ackerman McQueen, LaPierre alleged. According to North, however, the organization's lawyer was scoring "extraordinary" payments for legal fees that totaled in the millions.
Board members don't earn a salary for their service and have no financial responsibilities to raise funds. There are no term limits on their positions.
The Post spoke to a tax expert who said that these payments could be a conflict of interest for those tasked with monitoring the finances of the group.
"In 25 years of working in this field, I have never seen a pattern like this," said Washington attorney Douglas Varley, who specializes in tax-exempt organizations. "The volume of transactions with insiders and affiliates of insiders is really astonishing."
"But the pattern raises a threshold question of who the organization is serving," he continued. "Is it being run for the benefit of the gun owners in the country and the public? Or is it being run as a business generating enterprise for officers and employees of the organization?"
The story is developing...