Woman charged with acting as Russian agent has South Dakota ties

 Maria Butin speaking at SDLARS camp in 2015, posted on Dusty Johnson's Twitter profile.
Maria Butin speaking at SDLARS camp in 2015, posted on Dusty Johnson's Twitter profile. (KSFY)
Published: Jul. 17, 2018 at 5:42 AM CDT
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Federal authorities have arrested a Russian woman accused of conspiring to infiltrate American political organizations, including a gun-rights group, at the direction of a senior Kremlin official.

That's according to court papers unsealed Monday in Washington. Maria Butina was arrested Sunday on a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.

Court papers say Butina worked on behalf of an unnamed Russian official to influence senior U.S. politicians and develop relationships with other political organizations between 2015 and 2017.

Butina has had interactions with several people with South Dakota ties. This included establishing an LLC in Sioux Falls - known as

- with South Dakota native and GOP activist Paul Erickson.

In May of 2015, Butina spoke at the Academy of Finance in Sioux Falls, according to Sioux Falls School District Communication Specialist Ben Schumacher. Butina spoke as part of a broader presentation by Erickson, who was teaching lessons in schools for Junior Achievement of South Dakota. She spoke about women and entrepreneurship.

Butina also attended a camp for South Dakota teenage republicans in the Black Hills in 2015, which was hosted by Dusty Johnson. Johnson is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives in South Dakota. According to Johnson's social media posts, Butina spoke about the lack of gun rights in her native Russia.

KSFY News is investigating Butina's local ties. We will have more details Tuesday on KSFY News at 5:00 and 6:00.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Russian Woman with Ties to SDGOP Arrested for Acting as Russian Agent.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - SDDP Executive Director Sam Parkinson released the following statement after Maria Butina, a Russian woman who, along with current GOP congressional candidate Dusty Johnson, spoke at the 2015 SDGOP Teenage Republicans Camp, was arrested yesterday and charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government with the goal of infiltrating American political organizations:

"The SDGOP owes the people of South Dakota a detailed explanation of how Ms. Butina came to speak at their Teenage Republican Camp at the same time she began her efforts to infiltrate and influence American political organizations, and what relationship, if any, she has with their organization or any of their candidates and elected officials. At the very least, South Dakota Republicans acted as unwitting accomplices of the Russian government in their efforts to influence the politics and governance of our country. This is a catastrophic failure at the highest levels of their party organization, and, at minimum, raises serious questions about the SDGOP's judgment and competence.