Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Lawyer linking NRA and Russia helped lead Marsha Blackburn campaigns, documents show Kline Preston said he helped head Blackburn’s re-election efforts—while bringing NRA and Russian officials together. Think Progress When G. Kline Preston IV first introduced National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership to Russian officials in 2011, he’d been close to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for years. Both Preston and Blackburn have a long history in and around Brentwood, the tony Nashville suburb.
But as documents obtained by ThinkProgress reveal, Blackburn was far closer to Preston than has previously been reported. Preston not only listed himself as the “Campaign Finance Chairman” for Blackburn, but additionally worked for years as the president of Marsha Blackburn for Congress, Inc.
According to information now removed from his website, Preston says he served as president for Marsha Blackburn for Congress, Inc. through at least 2014, with official documents showing the work beginning in 2003. During the same time period, he also introduced Alexander Torshin, a now-sanctioned Russian official accused of mafia ties and massive money laundering in Europe, to then-NRA President David Keene. For good measure, documents filed show that Marsha Blackburn for Congress, Inc., also listed Blackburn’s husband as the registered agent, and listed Blackburn’s address as its own.
Preston hasn’t limited his attempts at building bridges with Russia to trips to Moscow. Recent documents discovered by NPR show how Preston acted as host for Torshin, a lifetime NRA member, and Russian diplomat Igor Matveev during the 2012 U.S. presidential election.
Torshin, of course, was recently sanctioned by the U.S. government. Preston told ThinkProgress that the sanctions haven’t affected his friend. “He doesn’t get as emotional as I do,” Preston said. “When we’re having lunch or dinner or whatever, I don’t pound my fist, but I’ll be very emotional about [how] this is stupid. He’s very level-headed, and his opinion about the sanctions are, ‘Eh, it’s just politics.’ It rolls off, man.”
Matveev, as it is, has also met spent time with Blackburn. According to local paper The Daily Herald, Matveev, then the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, trekked to Nashville in 2008. While there, he dropped by Blackburn’s office, meeting with the congresswoman.
“It was very nice to have the chance to visit with Congressman Blackburn as well and discuss U.S.-Russia relations. It was a very enjoyable trip and I received a good reception,” Matveev said of the meeting.
This was around the same time that Russia began strengthening its efforts to reach out to social conservatives across the West. Likewise, it came shortly before Torshin requested a meeting with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), a woman whose politics closely align with Blackburn’s. Video of Matveev” Think Progress
Both Preston and Torshin are prolific Twitter users. Preston’s Twitter feed, under the name @gittinpaid, is populated by retweets from the Marsha Blackburn campaign, photos of Russian President Vladmir Putin and anniversaries in the history of the Southern Confederacy. He frequently posts stories in Russian media about President Donald Trump.
On Nov. 10, 2016 he tweeted in Russian: “Donald Trump has won and now the relationship between Russia and America will be great!! Goodbye Witch Hillary!!” Twitter translation: Donald Trump has won and now the relationship between Russia and America will be great!! Goodbye Witch Hillary!!
His tweets also includes frequent, and sometimes cryptic, exchanges with Torshin. On May 25, 2015 Preston tweeted two punctuation marks – a comma and an exclamation point, separated by a space. Torshin responded in Russian “Who as, and I understood correctly.”
In August, 2015, Preston tweeted a picture of Trump speaking at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Nashville, writing in Russian: “Donald Trump today in Nashville. He is a friend of Russia.” Twitter translation: Donald Trump today in Nashville. He is a friend of Russia.
Preston’s law firm, the Kline Preston Law Group, represented the Blackburn campaign in 2005 during an investigation into possible campaign finance violations. The case was settled with Blackburn admitting to “inadvertent violation of FEC” law and the payment of a $1,500 penalty.
From 2005 to 2007, Blackburn’s campaign committee paid Preston and his law firm $9,740. In 2004, Blackburn also paid Tiffany Preston a total of $4,100 in six payments for “administrative” or “salary.” From 2005 to 2006 the campaign committee also made 32 payments to Tiffany Preston, totaling $22,700 for “administrative consulting.”
Preston’s firm also represented MDSave, a Brentwood healthcare startup founded by Blackburn’s son-in-law, Paul Ketchel. Blackburn’s son, Chad Blackburn, served as vice president for business development for MDSave from 2012-2014, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Russian business connections
In the 1990s, Preston was part owner of a company that imported Kievskaya Rus vodka from Ukraine. At one point, Toys R Us balked at the vodka name, saying the word “Rus” could lead to confusion and dilution of the chain store’s name.
At the time, Preston’s company — Preston Skahan and Smith International — owned a seat on the Russian Stock and Commodity Exchange and was involved with connecting Nashvillians with Russian and Ukrainian investment opportunities.
Preston, an Atlanta native, is also listed as the registered agent for dozens of businesses over the years including a Nashville-based company named The Russian Language Foundation.
After receiving a law degree from Nashville School of Law, Preston passed the bar exam in 1995 and began practicing. He sued the federal government after his grandfather and other East Tennesseans lost access to their homes. The case was later dismissed.
Then in 1998, Preston took out ads in the Tennessean offering information about adopting Ukrainian children.
In recent years, Preston has represented clients in Davidson County for various charges including murder, drug possession and money laundering.
Since 2009, Preston has penned several books, including the Art of Gittin’ Paid, which offers financial advice to boost one’s income, six books on Russian law and one about on the 2011 Russian legislative elections.”
Russian Orthodox Church in Nashville, established after May 2007 in Franklin, TN, in the St. Ignatius Antiochian Orthodox Church, by Dr. Andre and Elena Zavalin and Fr. Seraphim Scheidler and matushka Margaret to the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (Liberty, TN, http://www.annunciation.us/ The Vanderbilt University employees (including Sergiy Bubin & choir leader wife Albina) and members of the Russian community in Nashville petitioned for a Parish. “On April 24th, 2009 the final decision was reached and took place the signing by Metropolitan Hilarion of the Decree on the formation of the parish (Decree 4-34) – Russian Orthodox mission in honor of former Alaska resident, St. Innocent of Moscow. First constituent assembly was held in the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church (Nashville, TN, http://holytrinitynashville.org ). Parish members are grateful to the rector of the temple Rev. Fr. Gregory Hohnholt” Russian Orthodox Nashville. 1712 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208. Pro-ROCOR Propaganda video promoting a Russian Orthodox South: “Orthodox In Dixie”. St. Petka Serbian Orthodox Church in Nashville