The National Rifle Association says it received foreign funds, however none of the money was used for election purposes, the gun lobby wrote in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Our review of our records has found no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit,” said John C. Frazer, the NRA’s secretary and general counsel, in March 19 letter that was made public by Wyden’s office.
Wyden had previously asked the NRA to comment on its fundraising efforts – noting that Alexander Torshin, a Russian lawmaker, ardent gun rights advocate and ally of Vladimir Putin, had attended the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting in 2016.
U.S. authorities are probing whether the NRA funneled Russian funds into the 2016 presidential election – as the NRA spent over $50 million on the last election cycle, including $30.3 million which went towards support for then-candidate Donald Trump according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In federal elections, the NRA typically ranks among heavyweight outside spending groups. For the second cycle in a row, it has earned a place in the top ten. But 2016 was a unique year for the organization, owing to the fact that many super PACs, like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads GPS, which spent roughly $115 million to elect Mitt Romney in 2012, declined to back Trump. The NRA stepped in to fill the void, putting at least $30.3 million on the line to help elect the real estate mogul, more than any other outside group — including the leading Trump super PAC, which spent $20.3 million. –opensecrets.org
“I am specifically troubled by the possibility that Russian-backed shell companies or intermediaries may have circumvented laws designed to prohibit foreign meddling in our elections by abusing the rules governing 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organizations,” Wyden wrote to the NRA. He sought details of any transactions with Russian nationals, as well as details of procedures that “ensure that funds from foreign sources are not used to influence U.S. elections.”
The NRA’s Frazer responded, saying that the organization “has strong policies and practices to ensure that we raise and spend our funds within the bounds of the law.”
Frazer also noted that no Russian nationals had ever been members of the NRA’s top-tier membership level, the Golden Ring of Freedom program, which requires a $1 million donation, and is referred to as the group’s “premier donor recognition program.”
In a response to the NRA’s March 19 letter, Wyden responded on March 27, asking for additional information about the NRA’s campaigning, communications and funding – along with a reiteration of his request for information about Russian members of the NRA’s Ring of Freedom or other donor programs.
Wyden noted that Torshin shared images online of himself wearing a “Ring of Freedom” badge – seemingly contradicting the NRA’s statement.
March 19 letter from NRA to Wyden
Marchj 27 response from Wyden to the NRA