Mystery backers tied to $400K Mitt Romney donation

By Sephen Braun and Jack Gillum

Associated Press

Published: Monday, April 23 2012 9:55 p.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Consol Energy Research and Development Facility in South Park Township, Pa., Monday, April 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — A mysterious firm that gave $400,000 to help elect Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has direct ties to a married couple who already are among Romney's top Florida fundraisers, The Associated Press has learned.

The $400,000 contribution from SeaSpray Partners LLC to a "super" political committee, Restore Our Future, is at the center of a new flare-up over loosened federal rules that effectively permit anonymous and unlimited contributions to influence the presidential election.

The contribution came from Gerald and Darlene Jordan, according to Susan Lynch, an executive at Boston-based Hellman Jordan Management. Hellman Jordan's website describes itself as a "specialty equity investment" firm and Gerald Jordan as a senior executive. The Jordans are top Romney fundraisers in South Florida and hosted Romney at their Palm Beach home last week.

Lynch told the AP that the couple had received the $400,000 as part of an unspecified investment disbursement, which the Jordans asked to be sent directly to Restore Our Future. She said the Jordans received the money as members of SeaSpray Partners LLC and directed it to the super PAC instead of sending it to their normal checking account.

"We were happy to do that," Lynch said.

Lynch declined to provide more details on the nature of the disbursement. She said that SeaSpray sent updated information to the super PAC, which originally told the Federal Election Commission that the money came from a different firm with an identical name.

Restore Our Future acknowledged the Jordans' involvement Monday after the AP confirmed the couple's role and raised questions about their involvement with the group. Spokeswoman Brittany Gross attributed the mistake to a clerical error and said the super PAC would file an updated report with the Federal Election Commission.

"During our internal review, we received a request to change the name on the contribution from SeaSpray Partners to individual contributions of $200,000 each from Gerald and Darlene Jordan," she said.

But earlier, Restore Our Future said it would not identify the donors and would only update the firm's address, which it said met federal disclosure rules. That set the stage for a detective-worthy whodunit among news organizations and watchdog groups that follow the campaign closely.

The revelations about the $400,000 donation — and the super PAC's reluctance to identify such wealthy supporters — illustrate the loosened rules overseeing the federal campaign finance system in the wake of a series of court rulings in recent years.

Those rulings, including the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United case, have turned back laws that were intended to shine a light on who was paying for elections — and put limits on how much they can donate — in the wake of the Watergate fundraising scandal of the 1970s. In the current campaign, most donors identify themselves, but in some cases corporate donors are able to disguise their names using limited liability partnerships.

"We've disclosed all the information that the FEC required," said Carl Forti, the super PAC's founder and chief strategist, said last week after his group first posted the mystery $400,000 donation. "I can't tell you anything more about the company."

Lynch confirmed to the AP on Monday that Gerald and Darlene Jordan each earned a $200,000 disbursement and directed Hellman Jordan to send the money to the super PAC.

The Jordans hosted a $50,000-per-couple fundraising event for Romney at their Florida home last week.

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