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Sunday, August 05, 2018

Follow the NRA Rubles: Or Hunting Russian Honey Pot Election Money

by Spocko

"Follow the rubles," said the modern day Deep Throat.  But following money is boring!  Who cares if you find the connections between Russia, the NRA and the 2016 elections of Republican politicians and campaign finance law violations?

Luckily we have Maria Butina. Everyone wants to know about her and her leader's plan to influence the US elections.
In the same way the Stormy Daniels case gave the media an eye catching hook to look into the corrupt dealings of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, so too will the Maria Butina case give the media a way to look deeper into the Russian connection to the NRA and the influence they have had on the Trump campaign as well as MULTIPLE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGNS.

Because the mainstream media needs to look serious, they won't just cover this "unregistered foreign agent" they will also report on the multiple campaign finance violations committed by the NRA over the years. But we all know it's the sexy spy that will lead the coverage. Which is fine with me, as long as the NRA involvement is fully exposed.

Following the FBI and Mueller investigations, there should be big fines for the NRA, lots of them. Because the NRA knew what they were doing. For years the NRA has used shell games and parsed the language of campaign finance law to avoid reporting and detection. As Howie Klein pointed out back in January of this year.
"There are two other clear grounds for federal campaign finance law liability: soliciting a “thing of value” from a foreign national, and “substantially assisting” the foreign national in spending to influence an election."
The money from Russian to the NRA then to Trump will be the white whale story (orange wail?), but there are many more down ticket races where Republicans were helped by NRA/rubles. I made a video to point some of them out.

When the NRA campaign finance violations become known by the politicians who were helped, what should happen?

Fun fact: It’s illegal for foreign funds to be spent in American elections.

The NRA has a pattern of other types of campaign-finance violations too. Mike Spies of the Trace did a great piece looking into other violations, The Mystery Firm That Became the NRA’s Top Election Consultant but sadly he noted:
"The FEC is widely considered a toothless agency, paralyzed by partisan infighting, and campaign-finance laws are often honored in the breach."
This is why I'm happy about Butina. Her involvement will highlight a lot of great reporting about the financial and personal connections between Russia, the NRA and Republican politicians. Here's a few for those interested.

For an excellent overall timeline see Ladd Everitt's very through work that is still being updated.

Denise Clifton and Mark Follman in Mother Jones have many stories on the case like, The Very Strange Case of Two Russian Gun Lovers, the NRA, and Donald Trump wherein we learn about Alexander Torshin (who really should be played by Patton Oswalt in the movie. )

Once again McClatchy was head of the pack with this piece by Peter Stone and Greg Gordon from January 18, 2017, FBI, 5 other agencies probe possible covert Kremlin aid to Trump. In their recent work they have been "following the rubles" with this story about  Cleta Mitchell,  Lawyer who worked for NRA said to have had concerns about group’s Russia ties  

David Corn of Mother Jones asked the question, Did Alleged Russian Spy Maria Butina Cause a Leadership Shake-up at the NRA? The quick installment of Oliver North as NRA president becomes  much more interesting if it involves a sexy Russian operative.
(BTW, as someone who has watched thousands of spy movies I always roll my eyes when I see female spies working on straight guys. Men soooo easily get sucked into these schemes. Then add in a bunch of old white guys who like to carry around guns as proof of their manhood? As the slaughter lobby members might say, it's a "target rich environment." )
As more about the Butina case becomes revealed in court, it will be good to keep looking at the money and people connections but also to "things of value” and who was "substantially assisting” the foreign national in spending to influence an election.

 If the Russian plan wasn't so effective, it might seem like something out of a cartoon show.  But we need to see that this was a long-term, multimillion dollar plan by the Russians to interfere with our elections and the NRA was an eager and willful participant.  

There needs to be serious consequences for NRA for their actions.