The National Rifle Association is the target of a sweeping investigation by the Internal Revenue Service that is expected to review the organization’s tax-exempt status and its financial activities, according to current and former NRA officials.
The massive audit is occurring amid allegations of fiscal irregularities within the NRA by former board members who assert that a militant faction now leading the organization may be misusing funds and mismanaging the $150 million budget of the nation’s largest gun lobby.
Neal Knox, the NRA’s second vice president and an influential member of its board of directors, confirmed that the IRS earlier this year informed the NRA that it had been selected “at random” for an audit that could last two to three years and require the NRA to provide office space for the investigators.
Knox - the leader of the hard-line faction that gained control of the organization in 1991 and 1992 - said that he and other NRA officials believe the IRS audit is politically motivated.
“If I’m to believe it’s random, I also believe in the tooth fairy,” Knox said. “What they’re doing appears to me to be a purely political effort.”
Knox and other NRA officials said they believe the IRS is taking action because the gun lobby played a key role in defeating Democratic congressional candidates in the 1994 elections and is working to unseat President Clinton, a gun control supporter, in next year’s election.
Clinton, who has taken on the gun lobby, has stated publicly that the NRA was instrumental in the defeat in November of more than 30 members of Congress who supported gun control - thereby tipping the balance of power in the House to the Republicans.
The White House denied that the NRA was being singled out for political punishment. “The procedures by which the IRS conducts audits are established by law and are well-known,” spokesman Michael McCurry said. “The White House, to my knowledge, had no role whatsoever in the audit.”
Don Roberts of the IRS would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an audit of the NRA but said “examinations are not usually done at random” and “most are done because there is something that has raised questions that we want to pursue.”
Knox said NRA officials are negotiating details of the IRS review, including access to NRA computer files and information on the financial relationships between the NRA and several charitable organizations that operate under the NRA umbrella.
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