The NRA is not required to be transparent about how money moves between its various political entities, and this leaves questions unanswered about how these foreign funds were ultimately spent.
In the context of ongoing investigations, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, wrote to the National Rifle Association earlier this month asking, “Can you categorically state that your organizations have never, wittingly or unwittingly, received any contributions from individuals or entities acting as conduits for foreign entities or interests?”
The NRA said that in fact they do receive foreign money, but not for election purposes.
“While we do receive some contributions from foreign individuals and entities, those contributions are made directly to the NRA for lawful purposes,” NRA’s General Counsel John C. Frazer wrote to Wyden in a letter obtained by NPR. “Our review of our records has found no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit.”
…Wyden also demanded to know whether any Russian nationals or foreign individuals had been members of the NRA’s donor programs, and whether the NRA received any money from sanctioned individuals.
While the NRA claims it does not receive foreign money for election purposes, the movement of its money between accounts could make it difficult, if not impossible, to track how the money is spent since it is not isolated or sequestered.
The NRA has a variety of accounts, and the NRA Political Victory Fund is their official political action committee and must report all of its spending to the Federal Election Commission.
It also has other accounts that require less transparency, and do not report spending to the FEC– and in those funds, the NRA told Wyden, they “receive funds from foreign persons only for purposes not connected to elections, as permitted by federal law.”
However, the NRA acknowledges that money moves between those accounts: “transfers between accounts are made as permitted by law,” the NRA’s general counsel wrote.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request from NPR to disclose the total sum of its donations from foreign sources.
…The controversy around the NRA and alleged ties to Russia center around one man: Kremlin-linked Russian politician Alexander Torshin. Starting in 2011 Torshin began cultivating ties with the National Rifle Association, establishing relationships with NRA officials, most especially former NRA President David Keene.
The Obama Administration, in March, 2014, blocked Dmitry Rogozin, a hardline deputy of Vladimir Putin’s, and the head of Russia’s defense industry, from entering the United States. This was retaliation for Russia’s invasion of the eastern Ukraine and Crimea. The same executive order banned imported Kalashnikov firearms, which the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action protested.
In September of 2015, the NRA, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with Dmitry Rogozin. The meeting with Rogozin, who is sanctioned by the U.S., is not illegal, so long as there no business transacted. So, why have a meeting?
The NRA had objected to U.S. sanctions that blocked Russian-made guns. However, David Keene, a former NRA president, who went on the Moscow trip, stated the meeting had nothing to do with America’s politics. As a 501(c)(4) organization, the NRA is not required to disclose its donors. (No transparency here.)
…It is illegal for foreign countries and citizens to donate money in U.S. campaigns. Should a Russian agent donate funds, by funneling them through the NRA, it would be very similar to money laundering. There is growing evidence that money coming from hidden sources may be influencing U.S. politics, by way of two paths. The first is through the President’s obscured personal finances, and the other is through secret contributions. Russian bribery and collusion may run much deeper than many people realize.
The FBI is now investigating the NRA for funneling money from Russians to the election. This violates U.S. election laws, which prohibits the use of foreign money in U.S. elections. In the last few years, the NRA has formed relationships with a number of well-connected Russians, which includes Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank.