Don’t you love a mystery? I certainly do. Let’s take a look at a mystery donation that Mitt Romney recently received:
“A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.”
The excitement builds..
“The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.
The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s bio on her firm’s website.The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business.”
The drop off: a million bucks with no strings attacked?
“Six weeks later, W Spann LLC made its million-dollar donation to Restore Our Future — a new so-called “super PAC” started by a group of former Romney political aides to boost the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential bid. It listed its address as being in a midtown Manhattan office building that has no record of such a tenant.
The Boston lawyer, Cameron Casey, dissolved the company on July 12 — two weeks before Restore Our Future made its first campaign filing of the year reporting the donation from the now-nonexistent company, the corporate records show.”
The Million dollar question…
“I don’t see how you can do this,” said Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, when asked about the contribution from the now defunct company. If the only purpose of W Spann’s formation was to contribute to the pro-Romney group, “There is a real issue of it being just a subterfuge” and that could raise a "serious" legal issue, Noble said.
A Roadmap for hiding contributions?
“Casey, the Boston lawyer, did not respond to requests for comment. Tim Larimer, a spokesman for her law firm, Ropes & Gray, said he couldn’t discuss who was behind W Spann LLC or any other matters relating to the campaign contribution. “The firm won’t be making any comment on this matter at this time,” he said in an email.
Restore Our Future also declined to answer any questions about the W Spann LLC donation, one of only a handful of seven-figure donations the group has received this year.”
Wave of unrestricted Super PACS
“The hefty size of the W Spann contribution, and its murky origins, highlights the growing prominence of groups like Restore Our Future, one of a wave of super PACs that are amassing hefty campaign war chests this year — unrestricted by any limits on how much they can collect from corporations and other wealthy donors. (A similar group, Priorities USA, was recently created by two former White House aides, including former Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, to aid President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.)
While it says it is independent of the Romney presidential campaign, Restore Our Future was created by three former top Romney political aides who have made little secret of their interest in boosting his presidential candidacy. “This is an independent effort focused on getting Romney elected president,” Spies, the former counsel to Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign, recently told the Washington Post.”
The relationship between Romney and Restore Our Future was further underscored when, according to the Center for Public Integrity, Romney spoke at a private dinner in New York for Restore Our Future donors last month, shortly after attending a fundraiser for his presidential campaign at the posh Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Millions pour into PAC coffers from corporate and wealthy contributors to further their agenda
“Last week, Restore Our Future filed its first report of 2012, disclosing that it had received $12.2 million during the first six months of the year. Among the contributors: four donors who contributed $1 million apiece, including John Paulson, the Wall Street hedge fund kingpin who made billions betting against the housing market, and two corporate partnerships listed at the Provo, Utah, address of Steven J. Lund, a former chief executive of Nu Skin Enterprises and a longtime Romney backer who has been a leader in the Mormon Church.”
Make sure to thank our Supreme Corporate Court for what’s happening today…
Campaign finance experts say the use of an opaque company like W Spann to donate large sums of money into a political campaign shows how post-Watergate disclosure laws are now being increasingly circumvented.
Much of this, the experts say, is because of last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political advocacy, including giving to supposedly “independent” super PACs like Restore Our Future. That ruling also opened the door for newly created nonprofit groups — such as Crossroads GPS, started by Karl Rove — that spent tens of millions of dollars on attack ads during last year’s campaign without disclosing any donors.
Back to the Future?
“This is sham disclosure. It’s a barrier to disclosure,” said Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, a Washington think-tank that specializes in campaign funding issues, when asked about the W Spann LLC donation to Restore Our Future.
It’s one more example, he said, of how American political campaigns have gone “back to the future” and to the “pre-Watergate days (of 1972) when Richard Nixon was raising unlimited amounts of money without disclosure.”