WASHINGTON -- Former Bain Capital managing director Ed Conard came forward Friday night and admitted that he is the creator of W Spann LLC, the company that contributed $1 million to the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future.
Conard issued a statement to Politico admitting that he was the source of the contribution and asking that Restore Our Future amend its report to list his name, as opposed to W Spann, on records filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC):
I am the individual who formed and funded W Spann LLC. I authorized W Spann LLC's contribution to Restore Our Future PAC. I did so after consulting prominent legal counsel regarding the transaction, and based on my understanding that the contribution would comply with applicable laws. To address questions raised by the media concerning the contribution, I will request that Restore Our Future PAC amend its public reports to disclose me as the donor associated with this contribution.
The admission came immediately after two prominent reform groups filed a complaint with both the FEC and the U.S. Department of Justice calling for an investigation into the contribution. The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 alleged that the person behind the W Spann contribution had broken the law by creating a corporation to make a contribution in the name of another person. Conduit contributions are illegal.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also piled onto the controversy by blasting Romney, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president. The DNC called the contribution "sleazy" and asked supporters to respond by matching the $1 million given to Restore Our Future with small-dollar donations of $3 per person to the DNC.
The controversy began when NBC discovered that the Delaware-based W Spann dissolved just three months after making the $1 million contribution to Restore Our Future. The company had listed a Madison Avenue skyscraper that housed offices for Bain Capital, the investment firm created by Romney, as its address for the contribution, raising speculation that a Bain executive was behind the donation. Conard worked out of the Madison Avenue office until 2007, when he left Bain Capital.
Bain Capital had previously issued a carefully worded statement saying none of its employees were connected to W Spann or its $1 million contribution.
The immediate reason for Conard's use of W Spann for the contribution is unclear. Conard is not a well-known donor and is not known to have previously bundled contributions for candidates in the past.
Since 1993, Conard has given $254,750 to federal and state Republican candidates and party organizations. In 2008 he supported Romney's presidential bid, and when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) instead received the nomination, he gave $25,000 to the McCain-Palin Victory 2008 committee. The top recipients of Conard's contributions over the years have been the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), which received $88,900, and Romney's campaign and political committee, Commonwealth PAC and Free & Strong America PAC, which received $33,800.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 claimed credit for unveiling Conrad as the mystery donor, declaring that the FEC and Department of Justice should go forward with their investigations and that no contributor should remain anonymous.
"The Campaign Legal Center is prepared to vigorously seek legal redress against any similar schemes to hide the true sources of funding of political organizations active in the 2012 election," Campaign Legal Center attorney Paul S. Ryan stated. "The American people should not have to put up with such schemes to evade disclosure of money in our elections. Both donors and recipient committees, and the candidates they support, should be aware we will be seeking enforcement of the law in every case."
Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer also released a statement:
This case of the secret $1 million donor shows the extraordinary lengths that people are prepared to go to in order to hide their campaign contributions from the American people. More importantly this case illustrates the secret campaign money culture we now live in as the result of gaping loopholes in our federal campaign finance disclosure laws. These loopholes were caused by the Citizens United decision and improper FEC regulations that have eviscerated existing contribution disclosure provisions.