CLC Calls for Investigation of Shell Corporation Donation to Pro-Susan Collins Super PAC

Susan Collins with reporters around her
Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, speaks to reporters as he walks to early proceedings in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in Washington, DC on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Alamy Live News.

A newly-created Hawaii Limited Lability Corporation (LLC) appears to have illegally laundered $150,000 in funds from unknown sources to a Maine super PAC supporting U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, new campaign finance records show.

The facts are strikingly similar to those that led to the arrest of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

The Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers, LLC (SYWSE) was formed in late November in Hawaii. Five weeks later, it gave $150,000 to 1820 PAC, a super PAC supporting Collins’ reelection campaign for U.S. Senate in Main.

Googling SYWSE won’t tell you much. It doesn’t have a website, Facebook page, or any presence in online business records. Its registered agent, Jennifer Lam, does not have any apparent record of business involvement.

Those facts indicate that SYWSE could not have legitimately generated enough income during its short existence to cover the six figure super PAC donation—which strongly suggests the money came from elsewhere.

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint on February 3, 2020 alleging that SYWSE violated the “straw donor” ban, which prohibits any person from making a contribution in the name of anybody else.

This is just the latest example of wealthy special interests using LLCs to secretly launder funds into U.S. elections. And it echoes the campaign finance violation that led to the arrest of Parnas and Fruman last year.

In July of 2018, CLC filed a complaint alleging that a $325,000 donation to President Trump’s super PAC from a company called Global Energy Producers, LLC (GEP) had violated the law. Addresses and employer information from state and federal campaign finance records allowed us to connect GEP to Parnas and Fruman (who were boasting about their U.S. political giving in Russian-language Ukrainian press).

As was the case with SYWSE, GEP had formed just five weeks prior to making the super PAC donation. GEP, like SYWSE, didn’t have a website or other public presence, which similarly suggested that it could not have generated enough business revenue in five weeks to cover a six-figure super PAC donation.  

Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October 2019 on charges that arose from CLC’s complaint: GEP, was not, in fact, the true source of the funds used for the super PAC donation. The pair were also indicted for lying to the FEC in response to our complaint.

We now know that Parnas’ and Fruman’s LLC laundered super PAC contribution bought significant access to the president and his inner circle.

For example, in exchange for the promised donation, Parnas and Fruman were invited to exclusive super PAC donor dinner with President Trump, where they first urged the president to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

But when it comes to SYWSE, we still don’t know where the money used for the $150,000 1820 PAC donation came from—and what, if anything, that donor might  be getting in return.

Brendan directs CLC’s work before federal regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Election Commission (FEC).