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Anonymous Owners of U.S. Shell Companies Now Funding Politics

August 5, 2011

By Rebecca Wilkins

Rebecca J. Wilkins is Senior Counsel, Federal Tax Policy at Citizens for Tax Justice in Washington, DC.

Levin-Grassley Incorporation Transparency Bill Would Help Identify Mysterious $1 Million Contribution to Romney Campaign
Mitt Romney

Gage Skidmore/Flickr*

Today, NBC News reports that a Delaware company made a $1 million contribution to a PAC supporting Mitt Romney about six weeks after it was formed, and then dissolved two months later. This ripped-from-the-headlines story of a corporation that was created for the sole purpose of laundering massive political contributions highlights the need for a bill that was just introduced this week in the U.S. Senate.

The company, called W Spann LLC, filed a certificate of formation on March 15 with no information about the owners or the business purpose of the entity. On April 28, the LLC made a $1 million contribution to a political action committee supporting Mitt Romney.

The company then dissolved on July 11, leaving no trail of the real people behind the political mega-donation. Lawrence Noble, former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, called it a “roadmap for how people can hide their identities” and disguise their political contributions.

This technique would be blocked if Congress enacts a bipartisan bill introduced this week to require states to collect information about who really controls corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs) that are formed in their jurisdictions. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (S. 1483) on August 2.

The bill’s provisions are vital to law enforcement who are trying to investigate crimes ranging from arms dealing to money laundering and tax evasion. But it will also help combat another problem – the clandestine funding of politics.

Last year, a Senator from a certain state known for its loose incorporation laws blocked this bill from moving forward. (See Criminals, Inc.: Delaware’s Fight to Keep Opaque Incorporation Rules is Helping Tax Cheats and Terrorists, June 25, 2010.)

The reasons for supporting this law continue to multiply. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should be lining up to cosponsor the Incorporation Transparency Act.

Originally published on the Citizens for Tax Justice website.

* Photo via Gage Skidmore Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

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Disclaimer: Unless specifically stated to be the views of the Financial Transparency Coalition, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely the opinions of the individual blogger and are not necessarily those of the Financial Transparency Coalition.

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