A Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee is aiming to uncover more examples of potential financial impropriety at the National Rifle Association and convince the powerful House committee to launch a formal investigation into the tax-exempt nonprofit.
In a new letter obtained by CNN, Rep. Brad Schneider of Illinois has asked the NRA’s former advertising and public-relations firm Ackerman McQueen to release letters, receipts and other materials that document the firm’s financial relationship with the organization.
The letter comes as the gun-rights group is engaged in a bitter legal battle with Ackerman amid allegations of financial impropriety. It also comes amid probes from attorneys general in Washington DC and New York into whether the NRA violated its tax-exempt status.
Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have also pressed the NRA for more information about its finances. But House Democrats have an option their Senate colleagues do not: subpoena power.
Citing recent news reports and court filings alleging wrongdoing at the nation’s top gun-rights organization, Schneider’s letter lays out a seven-point wish list of requests for material, including information relating to the purchase of clothing or travel expenses billed through Ackerman on behalf of NRA management or board members.
“We’ve heard allusions to many of the things that are in this letter, but not the details,” said Schneider in an interview with CNN. “We’ve seen so much self-dealing and what I would call outside-the-lines activity. I believe we’ve just scratched the surface.”
The NRA has already faced a wave of scrutiny amid allegations of seemingly exorbitant spending at the gun rights nonprofit group.
Chief executive Wayne LaPierre has come under fire for billing Ackerman nearly $275,000 for clothes at a Beverly Hills boutique, and more than $240,000 on trips to destinations including Italy, Hungary and the Bahamas. The NRA has said they were all business-related. The NRA allegedly considered purchasing a roughly $6 million Texas mansion for LaPierre, complete with a country club membership.
“These events transpired over a year ago, the real estate transaction in question never happened, and no NRA money was ultimately spent,” says Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman. “This is a non-story if there ever was one.”
Other inquiries from Schneider relate to allegations that NRA leadership – including LaPierre and former NRA President Oliver North – benefited from deceptive billing, self-dealing and other mismanagement facilitated by Ackerman McQueen.
One person close to the House committee said that Schneider’s request for documents relating to “gifts, benefits, or other tangible items of value” is designed to draw out evidence of similar spending and exorbitant purchases for NRA leadership.
Much of the recent attention to the NRA’s finances stems from the caustic legal battle between it and Ackerman. The NRA sued its longtime advertising agency earlier this year, prompting a counter-suit from Ackerman. The two sides severed ties after roughly 40 years in business together.