The National Rifle Association (NRA) has spent conservatively during the 2018 midterm election season, dropping campaign donations to Republican candidates by 90 percent from previous years. Recent reports of increased debt, reduced cash flow, insurance troubles and legal issues linking the organization to Russian officials could be behind the tightening purse strings.
The NRA has spent $1.6 million in donations this election cycle, a massive drop in donation money compared to the 2014 midterms where they invested $16 million in GOP candidates, and $32 million during the 2016 presidential election season, according to Salon.
The drop coincides with reports of ebbing cash flow and mounting debt at the NRA. A recent audit found that despite claims of increased membership numbers and raising the cost of dues, the NRA lost $25 million in membership dues, saw a 22 percent decline in income and held $31.8 million in debt in 2017, according to OpenSecrets.
An inability to obtain general liability insurance is one of the factors the NRA claimed affected their financial solvency. The lack of access is part of an ongoing “blacklisting campaign” by the state of New York, that the NRA said resulted in tens of millions of dollars in damages to the organization, inflicting irrecoverable loss and irreparable harm according to a court U.S. District Court filing in July.
In addition to their New York troubles, the NRA also faces insurance woes in California as the California Department of Insurance issued a cease and desist order in September for the sale of the NRA’s Carry Guard policy being sold without a state license.
Some 2,400 California NRA members purchased the Carry Guard policy from the NRA, which covers some legal costs in cases where gunfire may have caused injury or damage. The State of California says that the NRA was not licensed to sell the policy in California, but the NRA claims that it wasn’t their fault, as they were told by their insurance broker, Lockton Cos., that they met the criteria to sell there.
Lockton Cos. was one of several companies that cut ties with the NRA after a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in Feb. The NRA then sued Lockton, claiming that it illegally marketed the Carry Guard policy in New York, and in May Lockton settled with the NRA for $7 million.
Other legal troubles include an FBI investigation into whether the NRA illegally received money from Russians. Alexander Torshin, a top official with Russia’s central bank, may have moved money through the NRA to help fund the Trump campaign. Torshin is said to have been a mentor to Maria Butina a suspected Russian spy who was arrested in June for operating as an unregistered agent in the U.S., and who was involved with the NRA. Butina has also been tied to Konstantin Nicolaev, a Russian billionaire gun rights activist.
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Rachel Lucio is a freelance writer in Austin, TX. She has been writing professionally since 1991, and has covered state, local and national government for more than a decade.