WASHINGTON -- In a town hall event on Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney dismissed a question about the controversy over a mystery $1 million contribution made through a dummy corporation by telling the questioner, "No harm, no foul."
The controversy over the contribution erupted after the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future, which is run by top former Romney campaign workers, revealed that one of its donors was an unknown company called W Spann LLC. An investigation by NBC discovered that W Spann was formed one month before it made the $1 million contribution and then dissolved a few months later. Calls for an investigation by campaign finance watchdogs pushed former Bain Capital executive Ed Conard to reveal that he was the source of the contribution. Restore Our Future has since amended its filing to show that Conard made the $1 million contribution and not W Spann.
Romney's response to the question appears to show that the candidate knows a little bit about Conard's intentions:
AUDIENCE: I did hear that there was a company formed, which gave your campaign $1 million. Do you remember this? A few weeks ago. So, can you explain that?
ROMNEY: Yeah. There's a guy named Ed Conard who had a company. I think he was gonna give to a bunch of candidates, but then he decided not to. And, uh, he gave $1 million to a PAC that supports me and then he said, "Oh, it's me!"
ROMNEY: Well, there's no need to have the company if he's not going to give to any other candidates so he gave to me. He's given to me before. One of my partners -- so it's not hidden, it's all out in the open.
AUDIENCE: But, uh, you see there's the spirit of something and there's the legalities of something. And, um, it just seems that this company was formed just, in relation to the Supreme Court ruling, to get money to your campaign and then dissolve itself.
ROMNEY: And -- and -- given the fact. You make -- you said it's a company acting as a person, I didn't get you. It may well be. Take it up with him. Uh, but there's actually--given the fact that he's said, "Oh, it's me." I don't think there was -- if you will, no harm, no foul.
Romney's statements ignore most of the record of the controversy over Conard's contribution through the W Spann corporation and could raise new questions about his knowledge of the contribution from Conard. It is illegal for political action committees, like Restore Our Future, to coordinate with candidate campaign committees. It would also be illegal for Romney to have solicited a contribution of more than $5,000 for Restore Our Future.
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer previously said in a statement, "These Super PACs are nothing more than shadow arms of a presidential campaign that provide a vehicle for massive circumvention and evasion of the contribution limits applicable to donations made directly to a presidential candidate’s campaign committee."