What Citizens United Hath Wrought

Ken AshfordCampaign Finance Reform, Election 2012, Supreme CourtLeave a Comment

Last year's Citizens United case was, for most court watchers, one of the worst-decided case in Supreme Court history.  Worse even, some say, than Bush v Gore.  That case allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on political advocacy (but mostly corporations since they had the $$$$).

What we have now is a huge infusion of money into politics, and we have no idea where that money comes from.  The latest:

A mystery company that pumped $1 million into a political committee backing Mitt Romney has been dissolved just months after it was formed, leaving few clues as to who was behind one of the biggest contributions yet of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The existence of the million-dollar donation — as gleaned from campaign and corporate records obtained by NBC News — provides a vivid example of how secret campaign cash is being funneled in ever more circuitous ways into the political system.

The company, W Spann LLC, was formed in March by a Boston lawyer who specializes in estate tax planning for "high net worth individuals," according to corporate records and the lawyer's bio on her firm's website. 

Who owned W Spann LLC? We don't know. What kind of business did it do? We don't know. Did it even have an office? We don't know.

What we do know is that W Spam LLC came into quiet existence, threw $1 million at a Super PAC backing the Romney campaign, and then quietly dissolved, never to be heard from again.

Ben Smith adds, "This is more or less how money moves around Russian politics. For all we know the Delaware corporation is owned by another corporation, registered in the Cayman Islands, with its directors another set of anonymous lawyers. Its money could come from, say, the government of Pakistan, which has recently shown an interest in illegal contributions to American pols."

That may sound excessive, but it's entirely fair. Under our current system, a foreign government could conceivably set up a dummy corporation, invest heavily in Mitt Romney (or some other candidate), then dissolve the "business" and fade away.

Sound right to you?