Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses the media and… (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles…)
Under the Supreme Court's controversial Citizens United decision, corporations can make contributions to independent political committees. But what if the corporation making the donation wasn't a functioning corporate entity?
New details about the company that made a $1 million donation to a committee supporting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney have opened up questions about the 2010 decision and the enforcement of election law.
Federal Election Commission records show that $1 million was given to Restore Our Future, a so-called super PAC backing Romney, by W Spann LLC. Under the law, corporations can now give such donations.
However, NBC News reported Thursday that the firm was incorporated only in March, made the donation in April and was dissolved on July 11, just before the super PAC was required to disclose donations.
According to NBC, the company was formed and dissolved by a Boston lawyer, Cameron Casey, an associate at the firm of Ropes & Gray.
The firm has several connections to Romney including representing Bain Capital, the investment company once led by Romney. In its report to the FEC, W Spann LLC is listed at 590 Madison Ave. in New York, an office tower that houses Bain and other major companies, including Morgan Stanley and UBS.
Tim Larimer, a spokesman for the law firm, said the organization "does not discuss confidential client matters" and refused to make any further comment.
While federal election law permits corporations to donate to super PACs, it prohibits the use of conduits to conceal the identity of actual donors. That could lead to an official inquiry by the FEC or the Justice Department.
"There is FEC precedent to conduct an investigation to determine if this corporation used it own funds to make a contribution --- which would be legal after Citizens United -- or whether the corporation was just a conduit for a person or persons who did not want to disclose their identity," said Brett Kappel, an election lawyer at Arent Fox law firm in Washington.
A spokeswoman for Restore Our Future, Brittany Gross, said, the PAC “has fully complied with all FEC regulations, including publicly disclosing donors on our July 31 report."
Restore Our Future also received checks of $1 million apiece from two companies that are registered at the same address in Provo, Utah, where Romney has strong business connections.