While simultaneously infiltrating the upper ranks of the NRA, Russian national and purported lifetime NRA member Maria Butina was tasked by former NRA president David Keene and his wife, Donna Keene, with helping attempt to broker the sale of Russian jet fuel to an American middleman, according to a New York Times report.
To date, the NRA has not publicly commented on the arrest or indictment of Maria Butina.
“Ms. Butina’s efforts to deal in Russian jet fuel, detailed in hundreds of pages of previously unreported emails, were notable not just for their whiff of foreign intrigue but for whom they involved: David Keene, a former president of the National Rifle Association and a prominent leader of the conservative movement, who has advised Republican candidates from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney. They also involved Mr. Keene’s wife, Donna, a well-connected Washington lobbyist, and Ms. Butina’s boyfriend, Paul Erickson, who ran Patrick J. Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign and who moved in rarefied conservative circles despite allegations of fraud in three states.
“The driving force behind the jet fuel negotiations appears to have been Mr. Erickson, 56, a former board member of the American Conservative Union who was accused of defrauding investors in California, South Dakota and Virginia. The other major players were the Keenes, who first raised the idea of brokering a sale of Russian jet fuel and then put Ms. Butina and Mr. Erickson in touch with prospective buyers.”
The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Donald Trump – nearly triple what the group spent during the 2012 presidential race. Most of that money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors, and according to a McClatchy report from January, NRA spending may have actually exceeded $70 million during the 2016 election.