There’s been a working theory among liberals for some time now that the NRA may have conspired with Vladimir Putin to funnel money to help elect Donald Trump. (Who hasn’t, right?) This particular story, which pulls together some of the most terrifying boogeymen of our era — the nihilistic gun radical, the seditious president and the mind-controlling PAC — has been a particular favorite of the august National Public Radio.
This sordid tale begins with a Kremlin-lackey named Alexander Torshin, who, according to NPR, has “cultivated a years-long relationship with the organization.” This crafty Russian, who, no doubt, would be happy to see the NRA become more Russia-friendly, had anticipated that Donald Trump would run against Clinton in 2016, and so decided to become a life member and openly support the organization back in 2012, paying nothing more than his minimal dues for years patiently waiting to infiltrate the United States government at some point in the future.
Because, as you might suspect, without Russia, the NRA, which hasn’t substantively changed a position on any gun-related issue in a very long time, would have been far less antagonistic towards Hillary Clinton, a candidate, who when asked which enemy she was most proud of, named the gun rights organization.
In any event, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden would soon take an active interest in exposing this unholy relationship with Russian agents. The Oregon senator has employed the age-old tactic of demanding answers to charges of impropriety that he knows can never really be disproven. This kind of self-perpetuating smear, then bounces back and forth between politicians and pliable reporters. What did the NRA have to hide, Wyden wanted to know? So did NPR.
So this week, the NRA gave the Senator some of those answers (you can choose to believe them or not) though they are under absolutely no obligation to provide him with any.
NRA, In New Document, Acknowledges More Than 20 Russian-Linked Contributors https://t.co/OoZn9HFHEj
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) April 11, 2018
This document (also known as a “letter”) prompted headlines that ranged from “The NRA received donations from Russian nationals” to “NRA discloses additional contributions from Russian donors.” All of which probably sounded pretty damning to anyone who didn’t read past a headline. Those who did, on the other hand, would soon learn that Russian “nationals” meant 23 “Russian-linked” individuals — some of them Americans citizens living in Russia — who had contributed around $2,300 total, mostly in membership dues, over three years’ time. Approximately $525 of that sum came from “two individuals who made contributions to the NRA.”
NPR has likely spent far more than $2,300 tracking the story.
To put the above sums in more context, it’s worth pointing out that NRA probably has somewhere around five million paid members (15 million people think they’re members, according to Pew) and raised anywhere from 67$ to $300 million dollars a couple of years ago.
Now, you don’t have to agree with the NRA. But you should try planting one foot in reality. Today, even though there’s no evidence of illegality (it’s unlawful for the NRA’s political shop to accept foreign contributions, not for the organization to have members in other nations), or for that matter, even any proof that substantial legal monies had changed hands, the stories still intimated wrongdoing.
It is true that an NRA spokesperson, asked about Torshin, initially claimed that he knew of only one Russian who had contributed to the organization. As it turns out, there were a couple dozen, out of millions of members and donations over the past three years. The NRA does itself no favors answering politically motivated questions in the first place. Because Wyden, who apparently subscribes to The New York Times’ notion that defending your rights just makes you seem guilty, told ABC News that he is now considering “additional oversight actions.” Why? One imagines, because the NRA didn’t come back with an answer that implicated itself in shady behavior. Which is how an open-ended smear works.