For supporters, the NRA is a bulwark of patriotic Americans values, but critics are demanding a broader investigation into its ties to a Kremlin-linked banker.
A liberal group will on Monday file a request for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to launch an investigation into whether the National Rifle Association took contributions from Russians, which were then illegally channeled to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, NPR reported.
The American Legal Democracy Fund (ALDF), a group with ties to liberal Super PAC American Bridge, plans to submit the request after McClatchy reported earlier in January that the FBI was investigating the influential gun rights lobbying group.
No public evidence that the NRA took Russian money has emerged, and spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told NPR "The National Rifle Association has not been contacted by the FBI or any other investigative body."
According to the report, the FBI is investigating whether Russian banker and NRA member Alexander Torshin channeled funds through the group to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, in breach of U.S. election laws.
The Putin ally is a lifelong NRA member, and led a delegation of NRA chiefs to Russia in 2015. As the presidential race intensified, he cultivated his links to the Trump campaign, meeting the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., at the NRA convention in June 2016, though he was reportedly unsuccessful in his bid to meet the GOP presidential candidate himself.
The NRA spent $30 million on adverts and other campaign materials in support of the Trump campaign.
Glenn Simpson—the founder of Fusion GPS, the Washington DC research company which commissioned former British spy Christopher Steele to compile the notorious dossier alleging Trump’s ensnarement by Russian intelligence—alleged that Russian agents had penetrated the NRA in his testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in November last year.
“It appears the Russians, you know, infiltrated the NRA," Simpson told the panel, in a since released transcript. "It appears that the Russian operation was designed to infiltrate conservative organizations. And they targeted various conservative organizations, religious and otherwise, and they seem to have made a very concerted effort to get in with the NRA."
The sensational allegations, linking two liberal bête noirs, have provoked calls for a more wide-ranging probe. ALDF chairman Brad Woodhouse in the legal filing called for the FEC to “get to the bottom of this issue swiftly and deliver the results of a thorough investigation to the American people.”
However it is unlikely that Americans will know any time in the near future whether there is substance to the claims. Any probe by the FEC could take years, and would have to work its way through a number of Republican majority commissions.