Pro-Romney group: Mystery $400,000 donation error

Pro-Romney group: Mystery $400,000 donation error

WASHINGTON/AP — The mystery over a $400,000 campaign contribution to help elect Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney deepened Monday.

The “super” political committee supporting Romney said it provided the wrong address in a federal report for the mysterious donor. The group, Restore Our Future, said it will provide the correct address but won’t say who is behind the large contribution.

The pro-Romney group’s founder and top strategist, Carl Forti, blamed the mistake on a clerical error but would not explain how the money erroneously was attributed to a South Florida corporation established by a former stock trader, Scott DeSano.

Forti said Monday that DeSano — who in the past has been disciplined by the Securities and Exchange Commission — was not behind the $400,000 donation and that his Palm Beach firm was mistakenly listed instead of another firm with an identical name.

Under a Supreme Court ruling, the new breed of super PACs can accept unlimited donations and do not have to identify their donors. Most donors do identify themselves but in some cases disguise their names behind limited liability partnerships.

The pro-Romney group is not the only super PAC that has provided limited information on some donors. Last summer, the group did not identify the source of its first $1 million contribution. Controversy flared for two weeks until the secretive donor, a retired executive from Romney’s old firm, Bain Capital, stepped forward and acknowledged the donation.

In its latest financial reports submitted to the Federal Election Commission and listing more than $8.6 million donations in March, the super PAC listed some large donations, including the mysterious $400,000 donation and a separate $1 million gift from another South Florida company. The group did not identify who was behind the contributions.

“We don’t comment on our donors,” Forti said.

The $1 million gift listed from a Huron Carbon LLC was determined to come from the West Palm Beach headquarters of Oxbow Carbon LLC, a fossil-fuel processor and mining firm headed by William Koch, who had already given $1 million to the pro-Romney group.

But the origin of the $400,000 from Seaspray Partners LLC was clouded in mystery. The firm listed in the financial report was traced to a Palm Beach address and a corporation set up last year by DeSano. DeSano has not returned repeated calls from The Associated Press but told USA Today that he didn’t give the money.

DeSano agreed to pay the U.S. government more than $200,000 in December 2008 after he settled with the SEC in connection with a federal investigation into allegations that Fidelity Investments traders improperly accepted gifts paid for by brokers courting their business.

DeSano, who had worked as a senior vice president for Fidelity in Boston, did not admit or deny the charges, which focused on what the SEC charged was his flawed supervision of other Fidelity staffers.

On Monday, Forti confirmed that DeSano was not the source. It was not immediately clear how the mix-up occurred.

Super PAC donors often provide basic background information when they give money. The super PACs routinely employ lawyers and other investigators to ensure that donations are legal.