Despite slashing core expenses in recent years to account for falling membership and rising legal fees, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has continued to shell out big bucks for luxury air travel.
According to a purchasing policy disclosure report obtained by The Reload, the NRA spent more than $1.2 million with private jet companies in 2022 alone. The report—which details more than $50 million in spending on vendors with which the organization does not have a contract—documents approximately $750,000 in spending to a company called Magellan Jets LLC and another $517,000 to Corporate America Aviation Inc.
The purchasing policy disclosure arrives at the same time as financial documents detailing the group’s continued freefall in membership numbers and year-end revenue. Those have both steadily declined year-over-year since 2018, down from nearly 5.5 million members to just 4.3 million. Revenue plummeted by more than $100 million over the same timeframe.
As a result, the group has been continuously cutting spending on education and training, competitive shooting, and other programs at the core of its mission. The NRA spent roughly $28 million less than what was budgeted for all areas other than legal costs and publications, yet it still operated at a loss of around $11 million in 2022—calling into question the decision to continue spending large sums on premium air travel.
That’s especially true since the group’s past spending on private air travel has come under fire in recent years after allegations began coming out in 2019 that Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and other NRA executives were billing the organization for unnecessary jet trips and other personal expenses. Those allegations have fueled distrust of the organization and alienated some members.
“I don’t feel good spending any of my hard earned dollars on an organization that’s full of graft and corruption,” Thomas Laumann, a nearly 40-year member of the NRA, told The Guardian. “If they’re not out there defending the rights of the people or advocating for safety, but just more advocating for lining their own pockets, it’s almost like the politicians in Washington.”
The allegations also led to the filing of a corruption lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.), who initially sought to dissolve the organization. A state judge dismissed that attempt but allowed James to press for court-appointed overseers for the NRA and the removal of Wayne LaPierre.
In the legal proceedings surrounding that corruption suit, LaPierre testified that it was the organization’s policy that he always fly private, “for security reasons.” He also testified that he was unaware of “any limits under this policy on the kind of plane he can charter, how far he can go, or the amount of money he can spend on the flights.” The legal proceedings also confirmed that the use of private charter flights was extended to LaPierre’s relatives, including his wife and niece, even when he was not on board. From May 2015 to April 2019, the NRA racked up over $1 million in expenses for private flights on which LaPierre was not a passenger, according to a court filing.
LaPierre was forced to reimburse the NRA nearly $300,000 for personal travel expenses billed to the organization from 2015 to 2019.
The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. It is unclear who flew on the private planes, where the planes were taken, and if the group’s board of directors approved the private air travel expenses.