The result is a feature-length documentary investigating allegations that the tax-exempt organization has flouted campaign finance enforcement, violated tax-exempt tax code, and broken numerous laws in order to enrich its executives. The NRA is currently facing a lawsuit of dissolution by NY Attorney General Letitia James, on top of other lawsuits.
“This is the most obvious form of coordination that I’ve ever seen,” says Ann Ravel in the documentary, the former chair of the Federal Elections Commission whose job it was to watch out for campaign coordination. “Most people are a lot more subtle with their coordination.” Ann Ravel sounded the alarm at the FEC about the dangers of unregulated online political ads years before the 2016 election. Other interview subjects in the documentary include law professor and author Ciara Torres-Spelliscy and investigative journalist Jason Leopold.
But it’s the fascinating dive into Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights activist who wooed the NRA and ultimately went to prison for being an unregistered foreign agent, that makes this documentary about election violations take a turn into true crime, or even the trainwreck genre. Butina’s relationship with the much-older Paul Erickson gained her access to Republican circles, though his dealings with Butina would cost him dearly. Touring these NRA conventions alongside Butina was her handler Alexander Torshin: a Russian banker, politician, and alleged mobster wanted by Spanish authorities for running a massive money-laundering ring. Torshin was so close to the NRA leadership he persuaded them to send a delegation of NRA executives and NRA board members to Moscow to discuss business interests with sanctioned individuals—a major subject of the Senate Finance Committee’s report, led by minority ranking member Sen. Ron Wyden (OR).
“It’s such a crazy story I don’t believe I get to tell it,” reflects Ennis. “I mean, the NRA, pulling dirty moves in elections, then selling out to Russia, after all their patriotic grandstanding? No one would believe it. But there’s so much documentary evidence, it took up a feature-length film.”
SOURCE Fish in a Barrel