November 28, 2018
According to tax records obtained exclusively by the Daily Beast, the National Rifle Association (NRA)—the nation’s leading gun rights organization—saw its income dip by $55 million last year, after a record-breaking 2016 in which the group and its political affiliates spent unprecedented sums to elect President Donald Trump.
As an American nonprofit organization, the NRA reported $98 million in contributions in 2017—down from nearly $125 million in 2016—according to new tax records accessed by The Daily Beast. Nearly 20% of its contributions last year came from a single anonymous donor, who gave almost $19 million to the group.
However, more noteworthy than its drop in contributions, the news outlet reported on November 27, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support.
Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge.
Nonetheless, 2017 did not see a financial windfall for the group. In all, the NRA reported just under $312 million in total income, down from nearly $367 million the year before.
That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization, the Daily Beast said: Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun rights priorities, also has become a lightning rod in the debate over gun control and mass shootings nationwide.
In 2017, about $27 million of the NRA’s expenditures went to its political advocacy arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. But that was down considerably from 2016, when the NRA-ILA spent more than $76 million. The exception: The NRA did pass along large sums to another key political organization, donating $775,000 (up from $110,000 in 2016) to the Republican Attorneys General Association, a coalition of states’ top law enforcement officers.
The bulk of the NRA’s contributions to RAGA last year came just weeks after the largest mass shooting in U.S. history at a Las Vegas country music concert. A month later, 24 of the 27 attorneys general who belonged to RAGA teamed up to push concealed carry legislation, a top NRA priority. Both parties insisted that the financial contributions were unrelated to the push, the Daily Beast reported.
Research contact: lachlan.markay@thedailybeast