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Utah's Romney super PAC donors find their anonymity challenged

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 22 2012 12:41 p.m. MST

In this 2009 file photo, Ruby Executives are greeted by NuSkin Vice Chairman of the Board Steven J. Lund, left, and president and CEO Truman Hunt, second from left, as they arrive at the company's headquarters in Provo.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

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With the advent of Super PACs, political money is flooding the airwaves, and the only accountability for moment is exposure. It's one thing when a casino magnate like Sheldon Adelson makes the cover of Forbes by theatening to dump $100 million on his favored candidate. Adelson is the creator of some of the gaudiest real estate in the country. You wouldn't expect him to shy from the spotlight.

It's quite another matter with less open donors who cloak their contributions shell corporations and LLCs. We reported previously on links between NuSkin Cofounder Steven Lund and the pro-Romney super PAC Restore our Future.

Now the New York Times has picked up the scent. The Times may be barking up the wrong tree, but you can hardly blame them, given this dark and cluttered forest:

"A few of the megadonors gave through limited liability companies, shielding their identity. One $1 million donation to Restore Our Future came from F8 LLC, a company whose listed address in Utah leads to an accounting firm. A charitable foundation linked to Sandra N. Tillotson, co-founder of the skin care company Nu Skin, uses the same address. Ms. Tillotson was reimbursed by Restore Our Future in July for what appeared to be costs associated with a fundraiser at her New York apartment. But Ms. Tillotson said in an e-mail Wednesday that she did not know who the owner of F8 LLC was and had not made a donation backing Mr. Romney's campaign."

Lori Bennet at the blog Muckety follows on the Times, creating an amusing graphic that shows the supposed links between Ms. Tillotson, NuSkin and two entities that contributed to Restore our Future. Bennet says this is like wearing a chinchilla hat and expecting not to get noticed.

The trouble with this analysis is that Tillotson doesn't need to be in this picture to make sense of it. After the January 31 FEC filing, we noted the following:

"Two of the seven-figure donations were from two companies in Provo: F8 LLC and Eli Publishing. A Washington Post article from September has already done the work on unpacking these, as both entities made identical donations. According to the Post, Eli Publishing is a company owned by Steve Lund, who is an executive at Nuskin, a multi-level marketing company based in Provo.

F8 LLC, meanwhile, is a company which lists as its agent Jeremy Blickenstaff, a local attorney, who the Post says is Lund's son-in-law, and the owner of Blickenstaff's toy store in Provo. The Post logically concludes that both donations are in actuality from Steve Lund. This is the second time that the Lund-linked entities gave $1 million each to Restore our Future, having done the same in the first half of the year."

As the Times notes, Tillotson does have a direct tie to Restore our Future. And since her nonprofit shares an address with Blickenstaff's F8 LLC, and Blickenstaff is Lund's son-in-law, and Lund is her Nuskin colleague, it is a little odd that she actually has no idea who is behind F8 LLC.

The funny thing about all this is that it's so unnecessary. Certainly Steven Lund ought to have known funneling contributions through shadow entities would only whet the appetite of journalists and bloggers, and that the shadows themselves would convey an aura of impropriety, even if the motives and actions are entirely honorable. One can hope that this is the kind of thing that will work itself out as donors and the media gain experience with the new rules.

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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