In 2011, former Bain Capital executive Edward Conrad decided to give $1 million to the super-PAC supporting the presidential bid of his pal Mitt Romney. But he didn’t contribute the cash directly. Instead, he put the money in a generically named shell company he had recently created, which then cut a check to the super-PAC, Restore Our Future. Election law prohibits donors from taking steps to hide their identities, and campaign finance activists pressed the Federal Election Commission to investigate. Five years later, the FEC—which since at least 2010 has been existing in a fugue state of partisan paralysis—has finally rendered a decision on whether it will probe the matter, which is something of a post-Citizens United test case. Nah, we’ll pass on this one, the FEC decided on Monday.
In a letter sent to the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog that complained about the donation in 2011, the FEC reported that its six commissioners deadlocked 3-to-3 on whether to open an investigation into the donation. Keep in mind that they didn’t split on whether there had been a violation of law, or if Conrad should be punished—just whether they should open an inquiry. The FEC also informed the Campaign Legal Center that the commission had deadlocked on a similar case from 2011, involving donations made via two other shell corporations to Romney’s super-PAC.