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Mysterious donor to pro-Romney PAC identified

By Jack Gillum

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 6 2011 6:40 p.m. MDT

WASHINGTON — A once-mysterious donor who gave $1 million to a pro-Mitt Romney political action committee in April contributed the maximum amount to Romney's presidential campaign three weeks later, an Associated Press review found.

Edward Conard came forward this weekend as the man behind the donation from New York firm W Spann LLC, founded shortly before giving the $1 million check to Romney-leaning Restore Our Future PAC. W Spann dissolved three months later, business records show, prompting outrage from campaign-finance watchdogs who said the secret contribution violated the law.

Conard is a former executive at Boston-based Bain Capital, which was co-founded by Romney in 1984. Conard could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.

Federal Election Commission records show that in May, Conard and his wife, Jill, gave $2,500 each to Romney's presidential committee — the maximum allowed under federal regulations by individuals to presidential candidates. Edward Conard also gave $2,300 toward Romney's 2008 White House run, records show.

The new developments surrounding Restore Our Future's contributions show how political donors — bound by dollar limits during each election cycle — can now give much more cash to outside groups that favor certain candidates.

Created by former aides to Romney, Restore Our Future raised $12.2 million during the first six months of 2011. The outside group is not officially connected to Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and can receive endless funds from individuals and corporations, thanks in part to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as "Citizens United."

"They're raising unlimited money from donors who can only give limited contributions to the candidate himself, and then are spending money directly to support the candidate," said Fred Wertheimer, president of watchdog Democracy 21, which called on the Justice Department and FEC this week to investigate the contribution.

"The whole operation is a sham," he said, "and the sooner we figure out how to do something about this, the better."

In a prepared statement, Restore Our Future spokeswoman Brittany Gross said: "We're glad Mr. Conard has chosen to come forward, putting an end to this supposed controversy. Restore Our Future will amend our report per Mr. Conard's request to reflect him as the donor."

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