Campaign Watchdogs Fire Back at Romney Super PAC’s Mystery Donor

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.Alexander Cohn/Zuma

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


On Thursday, NBC’s Michael Isikoff broke the story about a mysterious, recently dissolved company that donated $1 million to a super PAC affiliated with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. That company,  W Spann LLC, was formed in March, donated to the super PAC—called Restore Our Future—in April, and dissolved in July.

Now, the campaign watchdogs are barking back. Reuters reports that Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice on Friday asking the agencies to investigate the mysterious donation. The complaint alleges that the company, whose owners and true purpose remain unknown, violated FEC rules by falsifying the true nature of its identity.

But that’s not all. Democracy 21 and the CLC contend that the brief, wondrous life of W Spann appears to have had no purpose other than to raise a massive chunk of change for Romney. They allege that W Spann was an entity created primarily to influence elections, and note that it made more than $1,000 in campaign expenditures. If that’s true, the watchdogs argue, then W Spann should have registered as a political action committee.

“If W Spann LLC itself meets the definition of a political committee, then it should’ve showed up at the FEC to tell the public and the world where it got its million,” said Paul Ryan, a lawyer with the CLC. The argument has some merit: after all, the folks who brought us W Spann have yet to explain why the company existed for only a matter of weeks, or why its signature investment was in Romney’s political future.

Democracy 21 and the CLC see the short life of W Spann as a direct result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. We won’t know for sure whether any existing regulations were violated unless the FEC and DOJ decide to weigh in. But in the meantime, the watchdog groups’ decision to push for an official investigation should send a clear warning to would-be W Spann copycats: following W Spann’s lead might not be as easy, or as legal, as you think.

More Mother Jones reporting on Dark Money

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

THE TRUTH IS...

what drives Mother Jones' team of 50-plus journalists. The truth is powerful, as evidenced by how hard those with something to hide, or profit to gain, seek to discredit it. The truth, stated boldly and reported meticulously, is what draws so many readers to Mother Jones.

And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate