For the third time, a super political action committee supporting Mitt Romney has had to amend its official report after media inquiries disclosed an obscure business entity that was being used to mask big contributions from wealthy individuals. The latest misstep was the most egregious, however, because the information listed the address of a limited liability company with the same name, drawing unwanted media attention to an outraged and evidently innocent bystander.
“For me personally this is out of left field and causing me issues,’’ said Scott DeSano, a former Fidelity Investments executive in Massachusetts who is now living in Palm Beach, Fla., where he set up Seaspray Partners LLC, inactive since last year, among his business ventures. “This is the most random thing I’ve seen. I didn’t do anything. I don’t know any of them.’’
He was referring to Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney, and Gerald and Darlene Jordan, the true donors behind the $400,000 March 1 donation to the PAC. They used an investment fund, also named Seaspray Partners LLC, which is apparently affiliated with Jordan’s Boston-based Hellman Jordan Management Co., a private investment firm. The Jordans reside in Palm Beach but also own condominium units at Boston’s Rowes Wharf complex. Darlene Jordan is a lawyer. The Jordans have been longtime friends of the Romney family and are major fund-raisers for his campaign.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court decision ending the ban on limits for corporate and labor union political expenditures, super PACs have sprung up, technically operating independently of candidates and parties but allowing businesses, unions, and wealthy individuals to make enormous donations. Limits on the amount individuals may give directly to candidates and parties remain in effect.
The address listed for the Seaspray Partners contribution was the same as DeSano’s, however, prompting a flood of calls from reporters and an initial report, later corrected by Bloomberg, suggesting he was the source of the funds.
He wasn’t, as he protested and the PAC later acknowledged after at first refusing to provide any details, then saying it would correct the erroneous address, which it did not. This week, Restore Our Future amended its monthly report to the Federal Election Commission to reflect $200,000 contributions from each Jordan at their Palm Beach address and attributed the foul-up to “a clerical error.’’
How the precise address of DeSano’s identically named company found its way into the FEC report remains a mystery.
In an e-mail, Brittany Gross, a spokeswoman for the super PAC, said the error was discovered and “during our internal review, we received a request to change the name on the contribution,’’ which Restore Our Future did.
Earlier this week, the Associated Press quoted Susan Lynch, an executive of the Hellman Jordan firm, as saying the Jordans “received $200,000 apiece in unspecified ‘disbursements’ ’’ and requested that they be sent to Restore Our Future instead of to their own bank accounts.
Lynch did not return messages from the Globe seeking information about Seaspray Partners and its relationship to the Boston firm. An online search of corporate records in several states, including Massachusetts, did not turn up any additional information about the firm.
This is not an isolated incident for Restore Our Future. A year ago, a $1 million contribution came from “W Spann LLC,’’ with a New York City address five weeks after it was formed and seven weeks before it was dissolved. Later, a $250,000 donation was received from “Glenbrook LLC’’ at the address of a Redwood City, Calif., accounting firm. Following news stories, Restore Our Future reports were amended to reflect that Edward Conard, an investor formerly of Bain Capital, Romney’s old firm, gave the $1 million, and Jesse Rogers, a private equity fund manager who once worked for Bain and Co., and his wife were the sources of the $250,000 contribution.
Several other large donations to the super PAC also came from obscure LLCs whose principals were identified in news accounts.
It’s part of a trend of less transparency in identifying the source of funds pouring into the political process, said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan organization advocating more transparency in government and politics. “The danger is that there is some unknown LLC, say The Good Company LLC, and you have no idea what kind of business it is and who’s behind it,’’ Allison said. The super PACs, he said, “can say ‘We complied with all the required rules and we’re not giving you any more information’ . . . There’s sort of a trend of giving less information or the bare minimum.’’Brian C. Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.