Is the NRA Funded by Russia? What We Know and What We Don’t

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The power of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has once again come under scrutiny in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead.

The pro-gun lobbyist group has been widely condemned following the massacre at Robb Elementary School for holding a conference in Houston just days after the tragedy, as well as for how the group’s influence on the Republican Party has held back any attempt at major gun reform in the U.S. for years.

In the days since the May 24 shooting in Uvalde, others have also noted how the NRA has received money and other donations from Russian nationals over the years.”NRA. Who took donations from our enemy, Russia. Russia funded the NRA. Russia helps enable the slaughter of American kids. And they do it on purpose. They are the enemy. Never forget that,” tweeted Louise Mensch, a former British politician and author, also sharing a mock-up advertising board form the NRA with the words “f**k you kids” and a fired bullet.

Political commentator Lindy Li wrote on Twitter: “With Tulsa, we are now up to TWENTY MASS SHOOTINGS since Uvalde,” in reference to Wednesday shooting at a hospital which left four people dead. “Why the F is the Russian-funded NRA considered by the IRS to be a tax-exempt social welfare org? How the F is an unapologetic, murder-promoting domestic terrorist org contributing to our social welfare?!”

Actor Brain Guest tweeted: “Republicans won’t abandon the NRA because it’s their shell company that funnels in funding from Russia.”The claims that NRA is funded by Russia appear to be based on two separate findings related to Russian nationals and their ties to the NRA around the time of the 2016 presidential election.

In 2018, the NRA admitted that it had received contributions from 23 Russians or Americans living in Russia since 2015, amounting to just over $2,500 in “routine payments” such as membership fees or magazine subscriptions. The NRA later said that it had received more money from two Russian nationals previously disclosed, including Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker, with links to the Kremlin.

At the time, Torshin was under an FBI investigation into whether any Russian money was funneled through the NRA to help Donald Trump in the 2016 election. The NRA has denied that money they gave towards Trump’s campaign came from Russia.

The FEC general counsel’s office concluded in 2018 that there was “insufficient” evidence to state that Russian money was illegally funneled through the NRA to influence the presidential campaign.

However, a bombshell September 2019 report by Senate Democrats ruled that the group acted as a “foreign asset” in providing Russian officials access to U.S. political organizations in the run-up to the 2016 election.

According to an investigation, headed by Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, a number of officials traveled to Moscow in December 2015 for a trip organized by Torshin and fellow Russian national Maria Butina.

Butina, a gun activist, was later jailed for 18-months after admitting to acting as an unregistered foreign agent to infiltrate conservative political groups in order to influence foreign policy which would benefit Russia before and after the 2016 election.

Wyden’s report also alleged the NRA may have violated U.S. tax laws that prohibit the use of any organization’s resources for personal benefit. The 2015 trip to Moscow was so NRA insiders such as then-vice president Pete Brownell “could get rich” by offering access to the American political system in exchange for lucrative personal business deals.

At least part of Brownell’s trip to Russia was paid for by the NRA, with the group later trying to hide various payments related to it, according to the report. There was no suggestion that Russia itself paid for the trip.The NRA dismissed the report as “politically motivated,” and denied that the 2015 Moscow trip was an official NRA trip.

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