A once-mysterious $400,000 check written to a “super” political action committee supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign rekindled a nagging question this election season: Just how much disclosure is enough to satisfy transparency? The Florida husband and wife behind the contribution were identified Monday as the beneficiaries of an investment fund and are among Romney’s top Florida fundraisers. But up until then, the donation to the Restore Our Future super PAC — which reported the contribution from an unknown Florida firm called SeaSpray Partners LLC — left more questions than answers. Inquiries about the donation intensified over the weekend after a Florida man who owned a similarly named company in Palm Beach told news organizations he never donated to the pro-Romney group. It turned out that Restore Our Future listed the wrong address for the actual SeaSpray donor.
The super PAC at first declined to disclose more about the mystery donors, but as the controversy grew, the committee on Monday acknowledged the Florida couple’s role. Restore amended its federal filings Tuesday, naming the Florida couple as the two donors.
Welcome to the reality of recent federal rulings that have changed rules on how federal elections are financed. Those court cases, including the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United, gave a green light to corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of cash to support or defeat candidates. The federal rulings upheld longstanding disclosure requirements, and super PACs that receive that cash still file periodic reports with the Federal Election Commission. But regulations require that only basic information about a company be reported; as such, SeaSpray’s history and background effectively remained anonymous.