Vehicle Donations Has the NRA In Legal Trouble

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is in hot water this month after receiving two different lawsuits over financial improprieties. Despite that, their Cars for Freedom charity program is continuing. Cars for Freedom is run through the NRA Foundation, a charitable offshoot of the NRA that sponsors different causes. The charity allows NRA members to donate their used cars that are then sold through the NRA Foundation. 

Members have been wondering if the recent lawsuits will affect their ability to donate their old cars through the foundation. As of now, the NRA Foundation is still accepting vehicles for Cars for Freedom — but how long will it last?

What is the NRA’s ‘Cars for Freedom?’

Cars for Freedom is a fundraiser donation program for the NRA Foundation. Members are able to donate their unused cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, and boats to Cars for Freedom, where they are then sold at auction. The donations are tax-deductible and all of the money earned at auction goes to the NRA Foundation. The organization will even pick the vehicle up for you.

According to the NRA’s website, money received from selling the vehicles through Cars for Freedom goes toward funding “youth education, law enforcement training, hunter education, conservation, firearms and marksmanship training and safety, and much more.” 

What are the lawsuits about?

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While Cars for Freedom sounds like a win-win — you don’t have to deal with getting rid of your old vehicles — it seems the NRA has some questions to answer in terms of where the money generated from the program is actually going. According to Car and Driver, one lawsuit was filed by the state of New York, claiming that the NRA has been spending donation money “for private benefits, including on lavish vacations and ‘personal financial benefits'” instead of putting the money into the programs listed above. 

While the New York lawsuit simply mentions general charity programs, a second lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C. Attorney General names the NRA Foundation specifically (and implicated Cars for Freedom) as a program funneling money into the hands of private parties. The lawsuit claims the NRA “financially exploited” the foundation.

Car donations have been increasing after the pandemic 

Unsurprisingly, car donations through Cars for Freedom declined when the coronavirus pandemic took hold, mainly because people put off buying new cars while dealerships were shut down due to the stay-at-home orders in many states. Since things have begun reopening, however, Cars for Freedom has seen the numbers shoot back upward; July was one of their highest months on record in over 15 years. In fact, a spokesperson described it as “Christmas levels of donations.”

It’s clear that Cars for Freedom isn’t slowing down anytime soon, as long as the lawsuits that are currently in the works don’t force the NRA Foundation to shut down the program. Depending on how serious the lawsuits become, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the program close its doors while the courts figure out what’s actually going on with the money being generated by the program.

The most recent records available show that the NRA Foundation earned over $18 million for the NRA in 2017. Cars for Freedom, specifically, took in $1.9 million dollars through auctioned donated cars the same year. If there are any inaccuracies in the books for the foundation, it’s likely that Cars for Freedom will be affected as it’s one of the organization’s biggest financial contributors. It’s safe to say that NRA members will miss the program if it goes belly-up, especially given how car sales have started to jump in the wake of stay-at-home orders being lifted.