The NRA has been an unassailable force in American politics for years now, but in the wake of the horrific school massacre in Parkland, Florida, public sentiment is finally turning away from the blood-drenched organization over its blind advocacy of unlimited gun rights over public safety.
Now, when its public image is at an all-time low, the NRA is facing an even bigger crisis stemming from questions about its financial support of political candidates and the sources of the money that went into the campaigns of its favored office seekers.
Politico is reporting today that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has launched an investigation into whether Russian agents used the NRA to funnel illegal campaign contributions to the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential elections.
The American Democracy Legal Fund has pressured the FEC to begin an inquiry into the NRA’s campaign activities after media reports linked the gun lobbying organization to a Russian banker close to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin.
The NRA and its political lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, together contributed a total of around $30 million to Trump’s presidential bid.
According to Politico:
“Under FEC procedures, the preliminary investigation is likely to require the NRA to turn over closely guarded internal documents and campaign finance records. Depending on what FEC investigators and lawyers find, the agency could launch a full-blown investigation, impose fines or even make criminal referrals to the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the probe said.”
The FEC probe will augment the activities of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, who has been looking into possible collusion between the NRA, the Trump campaign, and Russia.
Wyden sent a letter to the NRA last month with a February 16th deadline seeking documents and answers to questions about its interactions with Russian individuals and businesses.
“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 … tax exempt organizations,” Wyden wrote.
With the revelation of the FEC investigation, the NRA may be facing some serious trouble ahead, since typically the agency does not begin an inquiry unless there is the potential that campaign finance laws were violated.
Brad Woodhouse, a senior official for the American Democracy Legal Fund, called the FEC investigation a first step in untangling a complicated web of ties between the NRA, the Trump campaign, and Russian agents.
“This story sounds more like a Tom Clancy novel than a reality,” said Woodhouse. “But in the age of Donald Trump and possible collusion with Russia, not only is it possible that it’s true, but it’s possible enough that it needs to be fully investigated.”
While the FEC does not have the authority to determine whether Russian entities purposefully donated money to the Trump campaign through the NRA, “it can look at whether or not the NRA is taking illegal foreign money to conduct political activity, and whether is money is passed on to support the campaign,” Woodhouse said. “They would have to investigate all of those linkages to determine whether there was any illegal election activity.”
With the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s political lobbying division, not required to publish the details of its donors, this may be a long and complicated investigation, but the integrity of our electoral process is at stake.
The political actions of the NRA are preventing the passage of meaningful weapon control legislation, leading more and more Americans to die from preventable gun violence. Isn’t that just what America’s enemies want to see continue? No wonder Russia wants the NRA to succeed in its mission.