The individual behind a controversial million-dollar donation to a Mitt Romney Super PAC has identified himself.
Ed Conard, a longtime Romney supporter and former executive at Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney co-founded, has taken credit for forming the company that appears to have done little else during its four months in operation besides make a seven-figure contribution to Restore Our Future.
"I am the individual who formed and funded W Spann LLC, Conard said in a statement to Politco. "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," Conard continued. "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."
Earlier this week, NBC News uncovered campaign and corporate records showing that W Spann LLC made its million-dollar contribution to Restore Our Future six weeks after it was formed by a Boston lawyer in March 2011.
The lawyer, Cameron Casey of the Boston firm Ropes & Gray, dissolved W Spann LLC on July 12 -- two weeks before Restore Our Future made its first campaign filing.
"The corporate records provide no information about the owner of the firm, its address or its type of business," NBC reported on Thursday.
Donation records to Restore Our Future showed a Manhattan address for W Spann LLC, but the Midtown office building has no record of the company ever being a tenant.
An executive of Minskoff Equities, the firm that manages the building, told NBC that he had "never heard of" W Spann.
Conard's most recent entry on Forbes lists him as the Independent Director of Waters Corporation and Director of Sensata Technologies - both with offices in Massachusetts. His total compensation from Waters Corporation in 2009 is listed as $178,575.
The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, nonprofit organizations based in Washington, D.C., filed complaints on Friday that the then-unknown contributor may have illegally sought to hide his identity by setting up a shell company, The Boston Globe reported.
"This case deserves a good, hard look from the Federal Election Commission and the Department of Justice,'' Paul S. Ryan, associate legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, told The Globe. "If violations are found, they should be prosecuted vigorously in order to deter future straw-contributor schemes that make a mockery of our campaign finance disclosure laws.''
The complaint additionally questions whether W Spann LLC should have registered as a political committee, which is required of any entity whose primary purpose is influencing political elections and who spends more than $1,000 in that effort.
A Romney campaign official told NBC the campaign could not comment on the activities of Restore Our Future, which he described as an "independent entity."
Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, told NBC that the establishment of a company for the sole purpose of donating to a Super PAC could pose a "serious" legal issue.
"There is a real issue of it just being a subterfuge" if that ends up being the case, Noble said.
What is a Super PAC?
A Super PAC is a Political Action Committee that operates independently of a candidate (officially) but supports the campaigns of a particular candidate, and allows unlimited donations from corporations and wealthy patrons.
There is a $2,500 cap for contributions given directly to a Presidential primary or general election campaign.
Some believe the very existence of Super PACs undermines campaign finance regulations.
"The super PACs are for the wealthy, by the wealthy and of the wealthy," Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center told USA Today. "You're setting up a dynamic where the candidates could become bit players in their own campaigns."
The Center for Public Integrity reported that Romney spoke at a dinner party for current and potential donors to Restore Our Future in July.
Casey, the lawyer who formed W Spann LLC, did not respond to a request for comment by the International Business Times, and a spokesperson for Ropes & Gray told NBC the law firm "won't be making any comment on this matter at this time."
A request for information by The Boston Globe from Restore Our Future was met with a referral to W Spann LLC. The Boston Globe could not reach Conard for comment.