Enemy of the State: FBI probe of NRA’s Russia money ties, hands Dems a big reason for campaign finance reform
Wayne “What’s a few dead kids ’cause FREEDOM!!!1!” LaPierre and the other millionaire lobbyists who pull the strings for gun-fetishizing, second-amendment-loving, flag-waving National Rifle Association took Vladimir Putin’s stinking Commie money?
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.
For those following Russiagate, Torshin is a name already on their scorecard. Two months ago, Newsweek reported:
Allegations of collusion continued to pile up against Donald Trump Jr. this week, with the New York Times reporting Friday that the first son went to a May 2016 dinner attended by a top Russian official who was trying to set up a covert meeting with the campaign.
NBC News confirmed Saturday that Donald Trump Jr. talked with Alexander Torshin, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the deputy head of the country’s central bank, at an event hosted by the National Rifle Association in Kentucky. But the first son’s lawyer insisted the duo didn’t sit together.
Think Progress asked the obvious question:
Why does an American gun group that promotes gun rights as a defense against tyranny align itself with a group with close ties to an authoritarian regime? Why would Putin allies build a grassroots non-profit to loosen Russia’s gun laws, rather than just enact them? Experts who spoke to ThinkProgress say they are not sure, but they discussed whether the whole arrangement is a cover for a larger effort to undermine American sanctions against Russia.
Well, thank goodness they weren’t seated next to each other — for once, Team Trump got the optics on something right! And in case you didn’t know it,
Torshin, a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been implicated in money laundering by judicial authorities in Spain, as Bloomberg News first revealed in 2016. Spanish investigators alleged in an almost 500-page internal report that Torshin, who was then a senator, capitalized on his government role to assist mobsters laundering funds through Spanish properties and banks, Bloomberg reported. …
Torshin is among a phalanx of Putin proxies to draw the close attention of U.S. investigators, who also have tracked the activities of several Russian billionaires and pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs that have come in contact with Trump or his surrogates.
If Torshin did funnel money to the NRA, he did so as part of an already corrupt and unaccountable system of campaign finance:
[T]he NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.
In other words, Torshin, the NRA, and the Trump team may well have handed Democrats, progressives, and reform-minded citizens a massive weapon in the fight to change campaign finance laws, mandate transparency, limit contributions to political action committees, or do away with them altogether.