Senator on NRA's ties to Russia: 'I remain concerned'

PHOTO: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) joins fellow Democrats in criticizing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act during a news conference at the Capitol, Feb. 7, 2018.PlayChip Somodevilla/Getty Images
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The National Rifle Association continues to face questions about campaign contributions made during the 2016 U.S. elections.

The gun-rights group has denied receiving any foreign money for the elections, but in a letter sent to the NRA on Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, doubled down on his probe of the NRA’s political spending.

“I remain concerned about the inability to get clear answers to several questions about the possibility that Russian actors funneled foreign funds into NRA electioneering activity,” Wyden wrote. “Clear answers to these questions are a matter of national security, campaign finance law, and American sovereignty.”

PHOTO: The National Rifle Association headquarters are seen here.Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty Images
The National Rifle Association headquarters are seen here.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA reported spending nearly $55 million on the 2016 elections, including more than $30 million in support of then-candidate Donald Trump.

The NRA says all contributions are legal and “carefully monitored.”

“As a longstanding policy to comply with federal election law, the NRA and its related entities do not accept funds from foreign persons or entities in connection with United States election,” wrote John C. Frazer, the NRA’s general counsel, to Sen. Wyden last month.

Of particular concern to Wyden, however, is “electioneering, issue advocacy, educational, voter mobilization, or communications expenditures” that might not be subject to the Federal Election Commission’s disclosure requirements.

PHOTO: Russian Council of the Federation Deputy Chief Alexander Torshin is seen during a meeting, April, 3, 2012 in Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga region, Russia.Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
Russian Council of the Federation Deputy Chief Alexander Torshin is seen during a meeting, April, 3, 2012 in Maloyaroslavets, Kaluga region, Russia.

Wyden also questioned the NRA about a December 2015 trip to Moscow during which top NRA executives and “elite donors” met with Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician with close ties to Vladimir Putin, who has been developing a relationship with the NRA for several years.

McClatchy reported in January that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money to the Trump campaign, but the NRA claims it has not been contacted by the FBI regarding Torshin’s activities.

Wyden asked the NRA to explain the purpose of the trip and identify whether any Russian nationals were members of its “elite donors” program or became members following the trip.

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