Ed Conard, former colleague and partner of Mitt Romney at Bain Capital, is currently on the TV talk show circuit promoting his new book. Last night he was onThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart did not take the opportunity to question Mr. Conard about the $1 million contribution he apparently illegally laundered though the shell company W Spann LLC to the Romney-supporting super PAC Restore Our Future last year—seemingly for the sole purpose of hiding his identity from American voters.
The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) became aware of this apparent violation of federal law in early August 2011, when NBC news reported: “A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.” Restore Our Future reported receiving a $1 million contribution from W Spann LLC on its mid-year report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on July 31, 2011.
The problem with this contribution is that federal law clearly prohibits making a contribution “in the name of another person.” FEC regulations make clear that “[g]iving money . . . provided to the contributor by another person (the true contributor) without disclosing the source of money . . . at the time the contribution is made” violates federal law. Based on published news reports, we had reason to believe that the person who created, operated and contributed to W Spann LLC violated federal law by making a $1 million contribution to Restore Our Future “in the name of” W Spann LLC without disclosing the source of money at the time the contribution was made.
So, on August 5, 2011, the CLC filed a complaint with the FEC against W Spann LLC and “John Doe, Jane Doe and other persons who created and operated W Spann LLC and made contributions to Restore Our Future in the name of W Spann LLC.” We also sent our complaint to the Department of Justice, urging it to investigate the matter for possible criminal violations. These complaints are pending.
Within hours of the CLC filing our complaint, Ed Conard came forward and, in astatement to Politico, admitted: “I am the individual who formed and funded W Spann LLC. I authorized W Spann LLC’s contribution to Restore Our Future PAC.”
When Mitt Romney was asked about this incident on the campaign trail, he defended Conard’s apparent violation of federal law. First, Romney revealingly referred to Conard’s contribution to the purportedly “independent” super PAC as a contribution to himself, explaining: “[S]o he gave to me. He’s given to me before.” Romney then went on to explain that, because Conard eventually came forward and said “Oh, it’s me,” there was “no harm, no foul.”
Of course, when the Supreme Court in Citizens United enabled corporate entities like W Spann LLC to get involved in federal elections, the Court promised us that, through campaign finance disclosure, citizens would have “the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters,” in order to see whether “elected officials are in the pocket of so-called moneyed interests.”
Ed Conard did his best to deny citizens this vital information—only to fess up once he was the subject of a federal complaint by the CLC. And Mitt Romney defended and excused Conard’s seemingly illegal actions. We all deserve an explanation.