Report: FEC probing whether NRA took Russian funds for Trump campaign


The Federal Election Commission has launched an investigation to determine if the National Rifle Association accepted illegal contributions from Russian nationals or organizations to support President Donald Trump’s campaign, Politico reports.

The FEC does not comment on ongoing investigations, but an NRA attorney told aides for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that the gun lobbying group was already “answering questions about possible Russian donations as part of an FEC inquiry,” according to a statement from Wyden’s office provided to Politico.

It’s illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

The preliminary probe follows a complaint from the American Democracy Legal Fund. The ADLF called on the FEC to investigate “whether the NRA violated federal law by taking illegal contributions from foreign nationals in connection with the 2016 presidential election and violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971,” according to the complaint. 

Brad Woodhouse, ADLF treasurer, told Politico he received confirmation from the FEC that it had launched a preliminary investigation into the organization’s complaint.

McClatchy reported in January that the FBI was investigating if Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, was funneling money to the NRA for the Trump campaign. Torshin, a lifetime member of the NRA, reached out to members of the Trump campaign through the organization, according to McClatchy. He also hosted dinners for NRA executives during a trip to Moscow in 2015.

The NRA spent a record amount on 2016 elections, including $21 million to back Trump and $14 million to attack Hillary Clinton.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun rights supporters
A gun rights demonstrator armed with a rifle walks past a sign memorializing the children and teachers killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, as protesters aligned with the Women's March hold a rally against the National Rifle Association at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S. July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters listen to U.S. President Donald Trump deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Supporters wait for U.S. President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Supporters wait for U.S. President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Onlookers, including a man wearing a National Rifle Association (NRA) t-shirt, watch as a 95-by-50-foot American flag is unfurled on the side of an apartment complex, a replica of the "The Great Flag" that was spun, woven, dyed, constructed and displayed on the same building by Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1914, in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., June 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NRA Executive Director Chris Cox (L) and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre (R) welcome U.S. President Donald Trump (C) onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Leadership Forum at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
File Photo: NRA gun enthusiasts view Sig Sauer rifles at the National Rifle Association's annual meetings & exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. on May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun enthusiasts look over Smith & Wesson guns at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II/File Photo
James Bell from Nashville, TN, look over rifle scopes from Burris Riflescope at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S. May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II/File Photo
Gun enthusiasts poses for a picture with an FN MK 48 machine gun and a MK 19 grenade launcher at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings & exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun enthusiasts look over guns at FN America firearms at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Gun instructor Robert Allen (L) works with Eathan Hawkins (8) at the air gun range at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings and exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Indiana Governor Mike Pence addresses members of the National Rifle Association during their NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II
Attendees recite the pledge of allegiance before the National Rifle Association's NRA-ILA Leadership Forum during their annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Attendees visit the trade booths during the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Attendees visit the trade booths during the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Brendan Walsh looks at a rifle scope in the trade booths showroom during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Fans wait in line to meet musician and supporter of the NRA, Ted Nugent, who was signing autographs during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Musician and supporter of the NRA, Ted Nugent, signs autographs during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Dave Verner looks at pistols and scopes in the trade booth area during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
Brett Throckmorten of Barnes Bullets shows Logan Wingo how to sight down an electronic rifle in the trade booth area during the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, April 11, 2015. REUTERS/Harrison McClary
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Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and ranking member of the Finance Committee, has also been looking into any links between Russian funds to the Trump campaign funneled through the NRA, and has sent letters to the gun lobbying group seeking information.

“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 to the NRA in early February.

The NRA responded that, as a “longstanding policy to conform with federal election law, the NRA [does] not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States elections.”

Wyden followed up with several specific questions, including requesting the identities of NRA members who are Russian nationals, and information about how donors and donations are vetted. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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