By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – The FBI, it seems, is investigating the National Rifle Association for using Russian money to illegally influence the 2016 election.
McClatchy reports that the NRA may have taken money from a Russian banker of dubious reputation to spend on behalf of President Donald Trump.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The sum could be staggering. The records show that the NRA spent more than $30 million to help Trump in 2016 – three times what the gun group showered on 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But that’s just what the relatively easy-to-access records show. Those numbers don’t reflect the shadowy expenditures on internet advertising and other largely unregulated areas of campaign spending.
McClatchy suggests the real number could be as high as $70 million.
At this time, there’s no telling where that money came from, because the NRA’s normally full-throated spokespeople – perhaps because taking foreign money to influence U.S. elections violates the law – seem to have developed laryngitis.
Why, why, why am I not surprised?
This news might not seem credible for any other organization.
But the NRA’s determined record of hiding where its money comes from and its persistent pattern of attempting to deny or even lie about basic facts gives these charges genuine plausibility.
It just isn’t that hard to believe that officials at the NRA – and their sponsors/owners in the firearms industry – would be willing to take money from anyone anywhere just to keep the flow of guns moving unimpeded at flood levels.
In fact, it’s difficult to believe that they wouldn’t.
The NRA’s flacks love to tout the money they get from memberships and say those dollars come from ordinary freedom-loving firearms owners.
What they’re more reluctant to talk about – and, in fact, go to considerable lengths to hide – is that much and maybe even most of the organization’s money comes from businesses that make and sell guns.
Some of these contributions are obscured by shadow and shell arms of the gun lobby that have been exempted from doing detailed financial reporting, courtesy of the NRA’s relentless lobbying efforts to shield the organization’s operations from public view.
Others are hidden by clever bits of sleight of hand. For instance, several major gun sellers automatically buy an NRA membership for anyone who purchases a weapon from them. The contribution goes on the books as membership income.
But the cash comes from the firearms industry.
This is one with the NRA’s grand strategy to distort, distract and derail any serious attempts to discuss gun laws and gun policy in this country.
The NRA’s advocates scream whenever there is a mass shooting or some other gun-related atrocity that they want to have a “factual” discussion about guns, violence and crime.
Their contention would be laughable if the circumstances weren’t so tragic.
It was the NRA and other members of the gun lobby who fought to keep the Centers for Disease Control and other organizations from compiling information about the numbers of gun-related deaths and injuries in this country.
They’re so serious about having this “factual” conversation that they fight tooth-and-nail to keep anyone from gathering facts. They do this because they know those facts will contradict their fantasy philosophy that any would-be gun wielder – however untrained or temperamentally unsuited to exercise deadly force – can become John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.
This isn’t about constitutional rights.
It hasn’t been for a long time.
More than 40 years ago, the NRA sold itself to the multi-billion-dollar firearms industry. There are at least 300 million – and possibly 400 million or more – privately owned guns in the United States.
That represents a massive amount of money.
The gun industry wants to keep the cash registers ringing, regardless of the cost to the nation in blood and grief.
The NRA is eager to be of assistance, so eager that it will take help from any quarter.
Including, it seems, taking money from a country that treats human rights and human beings like toilet paper.
But that’s the NRA way.
The NRA defends “truth” by suppressing facts.
And, maybe, just maybe, it upholds “freedom” by helping tyrants.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.