Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats Call on IRS to Investigate NRA’s Tax-Exempt Status

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D., N.Y., speaks after a Democratic policy lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 29, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Top Senate Democrats on Wednesday called on the IRS to determine whether the National Rifle Association should be stripped of its tax-exempt status.

An investigation by Senate Finance Committee Democrats found that the NRA had violated its non-profit status by using the organization’s money to develop relationships during the 2016 election with two Russian nationals, the deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia, Aleksander Torshin, and unregistered foreign agent Maria Butina. The lawmakers released a report on the investigation on Friday.

“In light of the continued efforts of Russia to undermine American Democracy, IRS must use its full authority to prevent foreign adversaries from again exploiting tax-exempt organizations to undermine American interests,” read a letter from Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, to IRS commissioner Charles Rettig. “It is incumbent on the IRS to fully investigate the organization’s activities to determine whether the NRA’s tax exemption should be disallowed.”

Butina is currently serving 18 months in prison for acting “under direction of” a Kremlin-backed Russian official identified as Torshin during the last presidential-election cycle to curry favor with American political groups, including the NRA, and promote Russia’s interests in the U.S.

NRA officials spent $6000 of the group’s funds traveling to Moscow in 2015, an amount that staff for the Senate Finance Committee’s Republican chairman, Chuck Grassley, called “relatively insubstantial,” saying it “does not raise concerns that the NRA abused its tax-exempt status purposes.”

“This report goes to great lengths to try to involve the NRA in activities of private individuals and create the false impression that the NRA did not act appropriately. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said NRA attorney William A. Brewer III.

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