When the pro-Mitt Romney "Super-PAC" Restore Our Future reported to the FEC in late July, there were a few mysteries among the big-money contributions -- but none bigger than "W Spann LLC," which contributed $1 million on April 28. There seemed to be no such company. The address given, 590 Madison Ave. in New York, is a large office tower with many occupants -- including wealthy hedge funds.
Among those 590 Madison companies, I happened to know, are the New York offices of Bain Capital, Romney's former company. One of the top Bainiacs who work from that office is Stephen Zide, who happens to have contributed, in his own name, a cool quarter-million to Restore Our Future on March 1. I have calls in trying to find out whether Zide has anything to do with W Swann.
Michael Isikoff of NBC News has a story about the W Spann mystery today, in which he reveals that the company appears to have been created, and quickly dissolved, just to make that contribution. (It was dissolved on July 12, so it's possible that further contributions were made in early July, which would not be reported until third-quarter filings in October.)
W Spann was created and subsequently un-created by Cameron Casey, a Boston attorney with Ropes & Gray -- a prominent law firm that counts among its clients Bain Capital, which Isikoff notes has an address at 590 Madison Ave. Isikoff doesn't mention Zide, so I can add that name into the story, for what it's worth.
Of course, if Zide is kicking in big bucks under his own name, he probably doesn't also need an anonymous vehicle for himself. But he might well have handled the transaction for someone who wanted to make a large, untraced contribution to the Romney cause.
If so, there are plenty of people one might speculate could be the one (or ones) behind the big give. (I have a theory, but with absolutely no evidence of any kind I think I should keep it to myself for now.) Chasing these secret, laundered contributions under the new Wild West campaign finance rules will be a lot of fun for journos like me throughout the campaign cycle, I suspect -- probably crappy for democracy, but that's another story.