Grassley Tells IRS To Ignore Calls For Russia-NRA Probe

The Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee issued a staff report in September calling on the IRS to investigate the NRA over a trip to Russia. They want the IRS to pull the NRA’s 503(c)(4) tax designation. The Senate Finance Committee minority members even called the NRA a “foreign asset”.

Yesterday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley fired back in a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. He characterized the Democrats’ efforts to get the IRS to investigate the NRA as “partisan” request. He said that the IRS ” is not a political weapon, and it should not be used as such. “

Sen. Grassley goes on to note:

The Minority report focuses on certain NRA personnel who traveled to Russia in December 2015 for a goodwill trip. After reviewing nearly identical evidence as the Minority staff at great length, it was clear to the Majority staff that nothing in those documents reasonably raises questions about whether the NRA should maintain its tax-exempt status under the tax code. Indeed, rather than present a careful and serious analysis, the Minority staff report offers incendiary conclusions unsupported by paragraphs full of belabored references to behavior that “raises serious” but undefined “concerns.” Even the cover of the Minority staff report deems the NRA a “Russian asset,” while nothing in the text of the actual report ever does more than editorialize to that effect.

He recalls the efforts of Obama Administration to politicize the Internal Revenue Service with some sadness.

Moreover, the IRS should never investigate taxpayers as a result of potential political motives. It is critical for the administration of our tax system that the IRS remain ideologically neutral when it comes to enforcing the tax code, and it is just as critical that taxpayers all throughout the United States know and believe this to be true. This decade has already seen the IRS involved in enough controversy around politically-motived tax enforcement, and the IRS should strive mightily to avoid such episodes in the future. As you are well aware, in May 2013 a scandal engulfed the IRS with its partisan enforcement of applications for tax-exempt status under Sec. 50I(c)(4) of the tax code, as led by Ms. Lois Lerner. Sadly, that scandal may have been precipitated by partisan requests for the IRS to investigate its perceived political opponents. This was a tragic episode in the IRS’ history and it must not happen again.

Grassley goes on to conclude that the IRS does important work. However, he warns that if the IRS is to retain its legitimacy with the American people, it must not “biased against them based on the exercise of their constitutional rights.”

He is right. The only way the IRS can ultimately get compliance with tax laws is voluntary compliance. If it is seen as a punitive tool by the Democrats – or the Republicans – it loses any sort of legitimacy and with that compliance. There are not enough IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents to compel compliance if the American people as a whole say, “I will not comply.”

Democrat On Ways And Means Committee Pushing For IRS Investigation Of NRA

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) is a junior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. He ranks 20th in seniority among 25 Democrats in the committee majority. The House Ways and Means Committee helps to oversee the Internal Revenue Service. He is using his membership on the committee to push the IRS into investigating the NRA’s 501(c)(4) non-profit status. This comes a couple of weeks after Everytown filed a complaint with the IRS regarding that status. While still a junior member of the committee, his request obviously carries more weight than that of Everytown.

Today he sent a letter to Commissioner Charles Rettig of the IRS asking him to review the NRA’s non-profit status in light of the recent allegations of “self-dealing, deceptive billing, and other abuses of tax exempt status”. The letter is below and a PDF can be seen here.

Dear Commissioner Rettig:

As a Member of the Ways and Means Committee, I take very seriously my role and responsibility in conducting oversight of our nation’s federal tax laws and ensuring the federal tax code is working as intended. It is with this duty in mind that I am writing to strongly encourage you to investigate recent reports of possible wrongdoing by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which enjoys status as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The allegations against the NRA reported in The New Yorker on April 17, 2019, including instances of egregious self-dealing, deceptive billing practices, and preferences in contracting are most troubling.

Our tax system is based on voluntary compliance. It is therefore essential that individuals and entities alike have full confidence they will be treated fairly, and the rules and regulations under the law will be applied equally. The American people trust the government will actively ensure all organizations are not engaging in misconduct, and specific to tax-exempt organizations, refraining from impermissible political activity. All entities and individuals who skirt the rules for personal gain should be pursued and penalized.

As you well know, Section 501 of the IRC lays out the types of organizations that qualify for tax-exempt status, as well the rules and regulations such organizations must follow. It is a basic assumption that active oversight and enforcement will improve compliance. However, in 2018, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration issued a report that found the further processing of multiple legitimate referrals alleging improper political activity by tax-exempt organizations were not pursued. This report finding raises questions about the IRS’s enforcement of our federal tax laws.

I am concerned about the potential long-term harm that diminished enforcement will have on the many nonprofit organizations that do follow the rules and take their charitable and social welfare purpose seriously. The alleged NRA operating practices also raise the question of whether current rules and procedures are adequate to guard against abuse.

In light of this information, I respectfully ask that you review whether the recent allegations against the NRA warrant reconsideration of the organization’s tax-exempt status. If you determine there is not sufficient information or resources to undertake this review, and other routine examinations of tax-exempt social welfare organizations, I ask that you provide recommendations to Congress on how we can best ensure the IRS is able to appropriately enforce our nation’s tax laws.

Non-profit organizations have always played a critical role in our society, improving the lives of millions of Americans. When trust in our tax laws is eroded, Congress and the Administration have a joint responsibility to investigate and act. The American people deserve to know that tax-exempt organizations are not abusing their preferential tax treatment and are operating according to their intended social welfare purpose, which is to benefit society.

I thank you in advance for your consideration.


Bradley S. Schneider

Schneider references a 2018 report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration regarding referrals alleging improper political activity by tax-exempt organizations. Mind you that at 501(c)(4) is allowed to engage in some political activity. Moreover, it was the weaponized IRS during the Obama Administration that was going after Tea Party and other other conservative organizations. Remember Lois Lerner? I wonder how many of the referrals that were not pursued were related to that time period. Hmm.

Inspector General J. Russell George was testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee today and Schneider used his time to grill him regarding the NRA and its 501(c)(4) status. He pitched his argument in terms of funding cuts to the IRS and whether that would impair their ability to go after organization like the NRA if it was found to engage in illegal and improper activity. Of course as the transcript makes clear, the leading questions all dealt with the NRA.

You can see the questioning in the YouTube video below helpfully provided by Rep. Schneider’s office.

I often feel sorry for any official who has to testify before Congress. The questioning is not really a give and take question and answer session so much as it is the politician rambling on in a political statement with an occasional question interspersed.

That said, the pressure on the NRA is being increased. As I said yesterday, the NRA can either get its house in order itself or it will be done for them. If I seem to be harping on getting their house in order, it is because I want to see a strong, effective NRA and not some neutered shadow of its former self.

Doing Well By Doing Good

If Uncle Saw rewarded you for doing good would you consider doing it? Well, actually the government does reward you for doing good. It gives you a tax deduction for donations made to 501(c)(3) non-profits. Even if you don’t itemize your deductions many states will give you a tax credit for donations to non-profits over and above the standard deduction.

So in this spirit, I thought I’d point out some organizations that support guns rights, promote (real) firearms safety, defend those who run afoul of arcane or absurd gun laws, and who encourage the shooting sports for the next generation. I have checked and all of these organizations are 501(c)(3) organizations. This is critical as donations to 501(c)(4) organizations are not tax deductible. The deadline for donations to be deductible is midnight on December 31st.

Supporting civil rights lawsuits, filing amicus briefs, and serving as organizational plaintiffs is critical in securing our Second Amendment rights. This is where the Second Amendment Foundation shines. They usually have a large number of lawsuits going in Federal and state courts all the time and are definitely deserving of your money.

Other organizations active in this category would include the Calguns Foundation, the Firearms Policy Foundation, and, to a lesser extent, the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Calguns has been very active in challenging restrictions in California and are often joined in this effort by the Firearms Policy Foundation. MSLF supported the lawsuits challenging the ban on firearms in post office parking lots and a case in Illinois regarding FOID cards for out-of-state residents. The Gun Owners Foundation, a sister organization to GOA, does help support some amicus briefs in important Federal gun rights cases.

Generating good policy research is important to Second Amendment litigation and advocacy in the legislative arena. This is where Prof. John Lott and his Crime Prevention Research Center plays a role. Unlike those in academia who get fat grants from Michael Bloomberg, the Joyce Foundation, and the California Department of Justice, Prof. Lott is dependent on grass roots donations. He runs a lean organization and could use your help.

Supporting those who have had their civil rights abridged like Shaneen Allen is the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund. They have cases going in 20 states ranging from Alaska to North Carolina. In NC, they are fighting an improper zoning law decision in Caldwell County that would shut down a shooting range even though ranges are a permitted use. The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund also is supporting a number of cases in California in conjunction with the state’s NRA affiliate California Rifle and Pistol Association.

Supporting similar legal defense work but on a individual state basis are both the Calguns Foundation (see above) in California and the ISRA Legal Assistance Committee in Illinois.

If we want to protect our children in a meaningful sense, it requires safety training for children, community outreach, and defense training for teachers and other school personnel. The NRA Foundation provides grants for education, training, and safety. Likewise, Project Childsafe, which is sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, provides both safety education and devices for securing firearms. They have provided over 37 million gun locks over the years. Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response or FASTER Saves Lives started with the Buckeye Firearms Association and the Buckeye Firearms Foundation. The program provides rigorous violence response training free of charge to school personnel as well as trauma kits to schools.

A true grass roots effort that is deserving of our money is Operation Blazing Sword. Founded in the wake of the Pulse nightclub attack by my friend Erin Palette, it seeks to make firearm safety and familiarization training available to those in the LGBTQ community. It originated with Erin putting together a Google Maps page with links to those who had offered this training for free around the country. It has now become an official non-profit with a 501(c)(3) determination letter from the IRS.

Getting the next generation active in shooting sports is the mission of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation. It both a clays and an action pistol program. The programs reach out to youth from elementary grades through college.

The Safari Club International Foundation supports wildlife conservation around the world, education programs including college scholarships, and humanitarian aid to veterans, food pantries, and many Third World Countries. Also providing aid to veterans is HAVA or Honored American Veterans Afield. This program helps wounded and disabled veterans to transition back to their lives in the US through outdoor and shooting activities.

There are many more state and local 501(c)(3) non-profits out there. These may range from a local 4-H program to a hunter’s foot pantry program. Look around your community for these opportunities to do good.

If I have missed an organization that you think is deserving of attention for the good work they do and that are tax-deductible non-profits, let me know in the comments.

NOTE: The links above go directly to the donation pages of the organizations mentioned.

UPDATE: Colorado also has a teacher violence response training program which was modeled on that of Ohio.  FASTER Colorado was started by my friend Laura Carno to bring that training to her state. You can make a tax-deductible donation on the link above. Look at the bottom of the teacher registration page where it says “donate”.