NRA Has Taken Foreign Funds, It Says, but Not for Election Use

(Bloomberg) -- The National Rifle Association received foreign funds but didn’t use the money for election purposes, the gun lobby wrote to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon.

“Our review of our records has found no foreign donations in connection with a United States election, either directly or through a conduit,” the NRA’s secretary and general counsel, John C. Frazer, wrote in March 19 letter that was made public by Wyden’s office.

U.S. authorities are reportedly investigating whether the Second Amendment rights group funneled Russian funds into the 2016 presidential election. The NRA spent more than $50 million on the last campaign cycle, including $30.3 million to support Republican candidate Donald Trump, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, has previously written to the NRA to ask about its fundraising efforts. He’s referenced Alexander Torshin, a Russian lawmaker and ally of Vladimir Putin who attended the group’s annual meeting in 2016.

“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 has written 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.”

In the NRA’s response, Frazer said the organization “has strong policies and practices to ensure that we raise and spend our funds within the bounds of the law.”

Frazer also wrote that no Russian nationals have ever been members of its Golden Ring of Freedom program. This top-tier program requires a $1 million donation, according to the NRA’s website, and is referred to as the group’s “premier donor recognition program.”

Wyden, in a response dated March 27, requested additional information about its campaigning, communications and funding. He reiterated his request for information about Russian members of the NRA Ring of Freedom or other donor programs, referencing images he said Torshin shared online of himself wearing a “Ring of Freedom” badge.

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