The National Rifle Association, the country’s largest and most powerful gun lobby, raised $256 million in 2012, more than in any other year of the Obama administration.
Last year included the presidential election and mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Those crimes touched off a national gun-rights debate that reached a crescendo in April, when the U.S. Senate voted down a plan to expand background checks on firearms sales.
The Fairfax, Virginia-based NRA spends at least $17 million a year on legislative services including lobbying. It strongly opposed the background-check measure and continues to fight state-level proposals across the country.
The NRA is a network of entities; its main organization, a nonprofit, this week responded to a Bloomberg News request for its most recent tax filings. An account of its 2013 financial activity won’t be available until the end of next year.
The 2012 revenue was $37 million higher than the previous year and also topped 2010 and 2009. As President Barack Obama, an advocate for tougher gun controls, first campaigned for the office in 2008, the NRA raised $247 million.
Membership dues accounted for $108 million of the NRA’s revenue last year. Another $73 million came from contributions, the tax documents show. Because it is a nonprofit, the NRA is not required to name its donors. Tax documents show three individuals gave contributions of $3 million or more. Another 15 individual donors wrote checks of between $100,000 and $942,650.
The NRA also makes money through advertising in its magazines and websites and the sales of services and goods, such as toasters. Companies, including those that produce firearms and ammunition, support the NRA through corporate giving programs.
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive officer, received $974,887 in compensation last year, and chief lobbyist Chris Cox earned $665,799, the tax documents show. The group’s political committees spent more than $20 million in the 2012 federal elections, Federal Election Commission records show.