NRA Foundation Enters Into Consent Decree With DC

The NRA Foundation which had been accused of diverting donations to the NRA entered into a consent decree today to settle a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was initially filed in 2020 by then-AG Karl Racine. Interestingly, this lawsuit was filed on the same day that New York Attorney General Letitia James had filed suit against the NRA itself.

According to the New York Times’ Danny Hakim, the NRA and its attorneys are portraying the consent decree as a win for the NRA.

The N.R.A., in a statement, portrayed the settlement as a victory, saying it had “proved that all funds” taken from its foundation “were applied exclusively in furtherance of its charitable programs and that there was no misuse” of resources.

Charles Cotton, the N.R.A.’s president, called the lawsuit a “political attack” and said his group had been vindicated, while the group’s lead outside lawyer, William A. Brewer III, called it a “politically motivated action.”

DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb obviously disagrees. In his own characterization of the consent decree, he said in his release:

“Donors are entitled to know that their charitable contributions will be used in furtherance of a nonprofit organization’s stated charitable mission. The NRA Foundation—the charitable arm of the NRA—violated this sacred public trust, allowing the NRA to use them as an unchecked piggy bank,” said Attorney General Schwalb. “Caving to pressure from the NRA, the Foundation diverted millions of dollars to the NRA in grants and risky loans that were repaid only after OAG filed its lawsuit. Tax-exempt nonprofits are a form of public trust—abusing that trust as the NRA did violates both the public interest and District law. Today’s outcome builds on our longstanding commitment to safeguarding nonprofit donors’ money and ensuring that all nonprofits operating in the District of Columbia follow the law.” 

His release notes that DC’s non-profit law doesn’t authorize the collection of penalties but rather seeks to bring the offending non-profit into compliance. The initial lawsuit included a demand for a constructive trust be placed over the assets loaned to the NRA, a modification of the Foundation’s governance policies, non-profit training for all of the Foundation’s board members, and a court-appointed monitor.

The consent decree, while not providing for a constructive trust or a court-appointed monitor, does include the other items.

Under the terms of the settlement, the NRA Foundation must:

  • Adhere to its articles of incorporation and bylaws in all decision-making processes, in and outside of formal Board meetings.
  • Conduct annual nonprofit compliance training for every Board member or officer.
  • Form an Audit Committee to ensure Foundation’s financial affairs are in order and work with an external auditor.
  • Establish a new conflict-of-interest policy.
  • Adopt new policies governing grantmaking, loans, shared services, and other activity with the NRA to ensure transparency, Foundation independence, and adherence to the Foundation’s nonprofit mission.
  • Report any Foundation policy changes to OAG within 30 days of approval for the duration of the agreement.

The consent decree (embedded below) also provides that any loan to the NRA above $250,000 must adhere to a conflict of interest policy that must be adopted within six months of today. Moreover, any grants to the NRA for program purposes require a written grant application, the grant must be used only for 501c3 permissible purposes, a post-grant accounting, and a return of any grant monies not used in accordance with the grant application. The Foundation must send copies of all the mandated policies to the DC Attorney General and failure to live up to any part of the consent decree will result in the case being reopened.

I really don’t see this as a win for the Foundation or the NRA as the DC Attorney General got most of what he wanted. The only win for the NRA came from avoiding the imposition of a court-ordered monitor. It seems the constructive trust would not be in play as the loans were repaid after the lawsuit was filed. If I had to hazard a guess, the NRA and Bill Brewer wanted this case off their plate so that they could focus on the second stage of the New York trial. I do wonder just how much money had been wasted on legal fees paid to Brewer, Attorneys and Counselors just to end up with a consent decree.


H/T NRA In Danger