A former fellow top executive at Bain Capital is behind a shell corporation that donated $1 million to a group backing Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
The executive, Ed Conrad, told Politico in a statement that he had fully funded W Spann LLC and authorized the contribution to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future PAC. Conrad made the donation, he said in the statement, "after consulting prominent legal counsel regarding the transaction, and based on my understanding that the contribution would comply with applicable laws."
The corporation's donation attracted attention from NBC investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, who reported earlier this week that W Spann LLC was dissolved just months after it came into existence. Campaign finance reform advocates seized on the contribution as another example of how independent expenditure-only political action committees -- better known as super PACs -- are funneling unregulated and undisclosed money into the political process.
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Both the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, two campaign watchdog groups, filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice earlier this week, seeking an investigation into the legality of the anonymous corporation's contribution.
"We are pleased to see that our complaint prompted this immediate disclosure by Mr. Conrad," said Paul Ryan, associate legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. "The FEC and DOJ will still have to determine whether the actions to date violated federal law and, if so, pursue appropriate penalties to deter such conduct in the future."
Conrad said he came forward after so many media outlets picked up the story. "To address questions raised by the media concerning the contribution, I will request that Restore Our Future PAC amend its public reports to disclose me as the donor associated with this contribution," he said late Friday.
The disclosure represents a rare victory for campaign reform advocates in their ongoing war against super PACs. The groups, created in the wake of a 2010 D.C. Circuit Court decision known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission and the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, so long as they file disclosure reports with the FEC.
Campaign reform advocates have pushed hard against the groups, which they say allow corporations to directly influence American politics. But reform advocates have few allies outside the opinion pages of prominent national newspapers, and they have been dealt setback after setback in their bid to stop super PACs from expanding their influence.