WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two campaign finance watchdogs are asking the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice to investigate a $1 million donation given to a pro-Mitt Romney PAC by a corporation that no longer exists, the groups said on Friday.
W Spann LLC formed in March, donated the money in April and dissolved itself in July, shortly before campaign finance reporting deadlines, media reports say.
The recipient was Restore Our Future, a super PAC formed by three former aides to Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and leading Republican presidential candidate.
"We are urging them to investigate whether or not this organization W Spann LLC and the humans or corporations or whatever is behind it with money has potentially violated any federal campaign finance law in an effort to evade public disclosure," said Paul Ryan, the attorney drafting the complaint for the CLC.
The complaint is based on two campaign finance laws. One prohibits a person or entity from making a contribution using the name of another.
The other requires any group that meets the definition of a political committee whose major purpose is to affect elections and has $1,000 or more in expenditures to register with the FEC.
"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," Ryan said.
Thus far neither W Spann LLC -- which no longer exists -- the Restore Our Future PAC nor representatives for the Romney campaign have offered explanation, the groups say.
"They are offering no information on why they appear to have existed for a limited number of weeks and do not appear to have done a whole lot besides issue a check for a million dollars to this super PAC ... and then conveniently dissolved prior to the reporting," said David Vance, communications and research director for the CLC.
The Romney campaign did not have an immediate comment on Friday.
The watchdog groups fear such incidents will continue and campaign finance will remain firmly in gray territory after the 2010 Supreme Court Decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which lifted limitations on the ability of corporations to contribute to campaigns.
"To paraphrase, they said, 'Yes, we're letting corporations
back into elections, but we have good public disclosure laws,'" Paul said.
"The reality is activities like this million dollar contribution illustrate that we don't know where the money is coming from."
Fred Wertheimer, president and founder of Democracy 21, which is jointly filing the complaint, said that before the decision, such an incident would not have been possible.
"The fact that this contribution was made is a direct result of the decision freeing up corporations to participate in federal elections," said Wertheimer.
Paul cautioned that as of yet, the mysterious donation is not a clear violation of campaign finance regulations.
"I personally would not characterize it as slam dunk- blatant disregard for the laws in that we don't know yet what's going on," said Paul. "But because we have zero information on how the money was derived, it raises red flags."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)