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In April 2015, Butina and Torshin traveled to Tennessee to attend a fundraiser for a political group backing the presidential campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, then viewed as a leading contender for the GOP nomination.In July, she attended Walker's campaign kickoff in Wisconsin.The group of 16 included Kremlin advisers, university presidents and the mayor of an eastern Russia city.At the Bistro Bis dinner, the room was set in traditional Russian style, with the guests on one side of a long table and the Americans on the other.In 2015, a collection of NRA officials flew over to attend Butina's annual gun conference.Among them was Erickson; former NRA and ACU chief David Keene; gun manufacturer and NRA first vice president Pete Brownell; and Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, a Trump supporter and sensation among the conservative grassroots.(The group did not respond to a request to comment for this story.) "I am deeply grateful for the friendship of the American NRA," Butina, now a graduate student in international relations at American University in Washington, wrote in an email to TIME.
They planned a conference on persecuted Christians, which will be held in Washington in May. "He said he would do all he could from his office to help."Catholic leaders like Brian Brown have been impressed by the Russian Orthodox Church's decision to tighten policies on abortion and uphold traditional marriage.
The crusade, which predates the rise of Trump, has garnered scant attention but achieved significant success, sparking new alliances with leading U. evangelicals, lawmakers and powerful interest groups like the NRA. During the Cold War, the Kremlin tried to forge links to the American left. It's no accident that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein scored a seat at Vladimir Putin's table at a 2015 banquet in Moscow for the state-sponsored propaganda outlet RT, or that RT hired former MSNBC anchor Ed Schultz, who boasts a fervent liberal fan base. Conservative Christianity has been one common touchstone.
The outreach to Republicans marks a dramatic shift in Russia's attempts to influence U. But over the past five years, Russia has also been fostering a growing affinity on the right. The dinner at the George Hotel, hosted by conservative activist and Rockefeller scion George O' Neill Jr., was part of the festivities surrounding the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event run by evangelicals to forge new, if informal, diplomatic ties through shared spiritual principles.
Since 2014, Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, has worked closely with the church and with Russian anti-abortion and antigay marriage activists like Family
In late January, Brown visited Moscow to seek the Duma's support for his group's new manifesto on those issues.