A Democratic senator charges in a new report that the National Rifle Association acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election, and that NRA insiders provided access to the American political system to advance personal business interests. The report by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, also says NRA leaders may have violated tax laws that prohibit use of organization resources for personal benefit, the AP reports. Based on an 18-month investigation, the report found that NRA leaders "engaged in a years-long effort to facilitate the U.S.-based activities" of Russian nationals Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin. Butina is serving 18 months in prison after admitting she covertly gathered intelligence on the NRA at the direction of Torshin, a former Russian lawmaker.
The Republican senators on the committee, who were consulted during the investigation, said Friday that the report "repeatedly attempts to paint a picture that does not exist," per NPR. Their analysis argued that any misuses of NRA money would be too minor to imperil the NRA's tax-exempt status, "hardly a rounding error for an organization with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year." Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, per NBC, "The NRA has abused its tax-exempt status and essentially become a business enterprise that its board members and leadership use for lucrative personal business opportunities, including in Moscow."
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