One week after Russian national and purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina was arrested and charged by the Department of Justice with “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States without prior notification to the Attorney General” after infiltrating the upper ranks of the NRA, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are renewing a request first made in February to the Treasury Department to hand over documents about Russia possibly funneling money to the National Rifle Association.
As of today, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has yet to acknowledge or respond to the several requests from Sen. Wyden’s office. In February, Sen. Wyden wrote his first of four letters to the NRA requesting any documents detailing financial links between Russia and the NRA. The NRA originally denied taking any money from foreign individuals or entities. Later, it admitted receiving a contribution from Russian banker, politician, lifetime NRA member and NRA donor Alexander Torshin who is alleged to have “illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency” in 2016. In response to Sen. Wyden’s third letter, the NRA acknowledged receiving contributions from at least 23 Russia-linked individuals.
In light of Butina’s arrest, the senators are requesting the following:
“1) Compliance with Senator Wyden’s initial request for ‘any documents relevant to financial links between the NRA and its associated entities and Mr. Torshin or other Russian officials, and that you include any documents related to shell companies or other illicit funding mechanisms suspected of being connected to these reported links.’
“2) Production of any documents relevant to financial links between the NRA, its associated entities and Ms. Butina and any entities or individuals related to her. This request includes but is not limited to her Russian gun group ‘Right to Bear Arms,’ political operative Paul Erickson, and the corporation Butina and Erickson registered together in South Dakota, ‘Bridges, LLC.’”
The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Donald Trump – nearly triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential race. Most of that money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors, and according to McClatchy, NRA spending may have actually exceeded $70 million during the 2016 election.
The questions remain the same: When will the NRA come clean about its connections to Butina and others connected to the Kremlin? And when will it fully answer questions about whether Russian money fueled the NRA’s record-breaking 2016 electoral activity?