WASHINGTON Two campaign watchdogs asked federal authorities on Friday to investigate a $1 million donation to a group supporting Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney by a company that existed for only a few months.
W Spann LLC was formed in March, donated the money in April and dissolved itself in July, shortly before campaign finance reporting deadlines, media reports say.
The recipient of the $1 million was Restore Our Future, a super political action committee (PAC) formed by three former aides to Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is a leading contender for the Republican nomination to contest the 2012 presidential election.
"Restore Our Future is an independent group and all questions about their contributions and events should be brought to them," the Romney campaign said in an emailed statement on Friday.
The watchdog groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, said they filed requests with the Federal Election Commission and Department of Justice on Friday 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 purpose is to affect elections and spends more than $1,000 to register with the Federal Election Commission.
Restore Our Future spokeswoman Brittany Gross, in an emailed reply to a Reuters request for comment, said the group "has fully complied with all FEC regulations, including publicly disclosing donors on our July 31 report."
In a June 23 press release, Restore Our Future said its board is made up of Carl Forti of Black Rock Group, Charlie Spies of Clark Hill PLC and Larry McCarthy of McCarthy Hennings Media Inc.
'RAISES RED FLAGS'
PACs are dedicated to individual politicians while super PACs are advocacy organizations devoted to a broader cause, such as electing Republicans or Democrats.
Romney, who failed in 2008 to get his party's nomination to run for president, leads the Republican cash race after raising more than $18 million as of June 30.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat seeking re-election in November 2012, reported raising $86 million in campaign funds.
Paul Ryan, a lawyer for the Campaign Legal Center, said the two groups want federal authorities to investigate whether "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."
The two watchdogs said they were concerned campaign finance will remain a gray area after a Supreme Court decision in 2010 lifted limits on the ability of corporations to contribute to campaigns.
Ryan cautioned it was not yet clear whether the donation to the pro-Romney super PAC violated campaign finance rules.
"But because we have zero information on how the money was derived, it raises red flags," he said.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by John O'Callaghan)