A firm with no apparent purpose or even clear address donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, before closing up shop.
The cash and its mysterious origins, first reported on by NBC’s Michael Isikoff, raise significant questions about the limits of campaign money in the post-Citizens United era. Super PACs, which can accept unlimited corporate donations to run independent political ads, are required to disclose their donors. But the firm, W Spann LLC, which was formed in Delaware in March by a Boston lawyer and dissolved in July, is a private company and can thus conceal details of its backers and agenda.
“What you have here is a roadmap for how people can hide their identities” when making donations, a former FEC general counsel, Lawrence Noble, told NBC.
The Super PAC, Restore Our Future, isn’t offering any further details on W Spann LLC, while the Romney campaign is required to remain fully independent from the group. But that barrier has been called into question at times: Romney spoke at a dinner for Restore Our Future donors in New York last month, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.
In addition to Restore Our Future, Romney supporters were on the bleeding edge of campaign finance laws in the pre-campaign period as well. In the run-up to Romney’s formal announcement of a presidential run, his campaign set up several exploratory committees in states with lax donor laws. While legal, the move offered top donors a way to donate many times the max limit of $5,000 to a federal leadership PAC. The wife and brother of Marriott chairman J.W. Marriott Jr. contributed $215,000 overall to his various state committees, for example.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.