By Blair Page, a Summer 2022 CLC intern
To uphold transparency, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) must robustly enforce the federal straw donor ban, which prohibits donors from funneling their campaign contributions through another person or entity to try to evade disclosure requirements.
Voters have a right to know who is spending to influence their vote, and Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is committed to protecting that right by filing complaints urging the FEC to investigate straw donors — including shell companies used to funnel political contributions to super PACs while avoiding the legally required disclosure of the true contributor’s identity.
On June 2, CLC filed a complaint alleging that a company known as Free Market, LLC was used as a straw donor to make a $250,000 contribution to the super PAC Alabama Conservatives Fund without disclosing the true contributors, who appear to have given the money through Free Market to hide their identities.
Free Market, LLC has no apparent income or assets, no identifiable commercial activity and no discernible online or physical presence. Yet it has been reported as the source of a $250,000 contribution to Alabama Conservatives Fund, a super PAC exclusively supporting Katie Britt, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama.
The registered agent for Free Market, LLC is C.T. Fitzpatrick, the Founder and CEO/CIO of Vulcan Value Partners (VVP), a Birmingham-based investment firm. The only address listed for Free Market, LLC is a P.O. Box in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
An LLC with no investments, assets, income or commercial activity would not be able to make $250,000 in PAC contributions — unless it was getting that money from someone else to do it.
This supports the conclusion that the true contributors funneled money to the super PAC through Free Market, LLC, a blatant violation of federal campaign finance law.
It is deeply concerning that an LLC can be created and — despite having no physical address, no public website or social media presence, and no mention by the Better Business Bureau or other business directories — used by actors seeking to influence our elections with vast sums of money, without even publicly attaching their names to their political spending.
It is long past time for the FEC to investigate these LLC straw donations and enforce the federal straw donor ban in order to uphold the transparency that preserves voters’ right to know who is spending on elections.