- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2012

The pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has spent $25 million in donated funds on ads excoriating Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, but with the exception of two advertising firms, the biggest recipient of its money has been a top Romney aide who left the presidential campaign to oversee the super PAC’s finances.

The PAC has paid $2 million to Steve C. Roche through a mysterious limited liability company set up shortly after the political committee was established, one that formed in Delaware taking steps that hide its creator’s identity and has no physical or billing address other than a P.O. Box.

The LLC also was formed while Mr. Roche was still receiving funds from Mr. Romney’s campaign in what could be the clearest sign yet of a non-existent wall between a candidate and the super PACs, which are required to be independent.

The company which super PAC officials say is Mr. Roche’s was formed in April, incorporation filings show. Mr. Roche, who was Romney for President finance director, received money from the campaign as late as August, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records.

The payments to Podium Capital Group LLC at P.O. Box 3238 in Beverly, Mass., demonstrate that the little-regulated, nominally transparent groups have the potential to not only dramatically alter the election landscape, but also to funnel large amounts of cash to people close to candidates with the same half-hearted disclosure as it comes in.

The PAC’s accounting practices, The Washington Times found, give new meaning to the former Massachusetts governor’s assertion that “corporations are people, my friend,” eviscerating federal disclosure requirements by masking all of their personnel payments with disbursements instead to intermediary companies.

In other words, the $2 million was paid out the same way that several $1 million donations to Restore Our Future were infamously taken in.

Pro-Romney donors explored new ground in making massive donations while keeping their identities secret following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that set the stage for donations of any amount from people and corporations: By creating an LLC in the tax haven of Delaware and hiring a third-party company to serve as the agent behind the company on filing papers.

Because only annual disclosures are required, creators can form a company for the sole purpose of moving money, and disband it before any person’s name has to become attached to it.

Delaware incorporation records show the LLC was formed in April 2011 and listed “Corporation Service Company” as its registered agent.

Mr. Roche did not respond to requests for comment.

“We don’t typically comment on vendors. What I can tell you is that’s Steve Roche’s group,” said Restore Our Future spokesperson Brittany Gross.

Mr. Roche’s move from the campaign to the super PAC illuminated the overlap between campaigns and the groups which, by law, are independent. With high-ranking operatives from the campaign heading the independent groups, observers noted, there was much less need to communicate with current campaign staffers.

Asked what the payments for “fundraising services” represented, Ms. Gross said, “They raise funds. That’s all I know.” She disclaimed any other knowledge of the company or its services, and added that she did not know how to contact it.

No names on the payroll

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