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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

National Rifle Association

Political leanings: Conservative/Gun Rights

Spending target: Unknown

The National Rifle Association of America is a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) nonprofit that advocates for gun rights and claims more than 5 million members.

The NRA has a political action committee — the National Rifle Association of America Political Victory Fund, or NRA-PVF — registered with the Federal Election Commission. As a PAC, the NRA-PVF is subject to spending and contribution limits. It can contribute up to $5,000 per election ($10,000 per campaign cycle) to a federal candidate, and it can accept no more than $5,000 per year from each individual donor.

However, the NRA paid nearly $5.5 million of the PAC’s “fundraising and administrative expenses” in 2016, according to the NRA’s 2016 990 IRS form. As a nonprofit, the NRA does not have to disclose its donors.

In 2016, the NRA-PVF spent more than $22 million — mostly on independent expenditures, such as TV ads that call for the victory or defeat of specific candidates. It made $19.2 million in independent expenditures in 2016, FEC records show. That included nearly $7.5 million against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and about $1.9 million in support of her opponent, Donald Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The NRA-PVF also made more than $1 million in contributions to party committees and federal candidates. 

The NRA also makes independent expenditures through its lobbying arm, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, or NRA-ILA, which is not required to disclose donors.

In 2016, the NRA-ILA made $33.3 million in independent expenditures — including $12.3 million against Clinton and $8.8 million for Trump, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The NRA-PVF and NRA-ILA spent a combined $54.4 million on independent expenditures and other political communications in the 2016 election cycle — three times more than they did during the previous presidential campaign in 2012.

Chris Cox, a former congressional aide, is the executive director of the NRA-ILA and chairman of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund. He is also a registered lobbyist for the NRA. 

As of May 21, the NRA-PVF has spent more than $1.5 million in independent expenditures, with $1.1 million in support of Luther Strange’s unsuccessful Senate campaign last year in Alabama. The PAC also has contributed more than $220,000 to federal candidates, 97 percent of whom are Republican. The NRA’s lobbying arm has yet to make any independent expenditures.