August 8, 2011

MITT ROMNEY DOESN’T understand what all the fuss is about. The secret $1 million donor to Restore Our Future, the super-PAC set up to help elect Mr. Romney president, is secret no longer. W Spann LLC turns out to be one Edward Conard, a former colleague at Bain Capital, a private equity firm that Romney helped found. So Mr. Romney’s response, as he told reporters in New Hampshire yesterday, is “no harm, no foul.” Sorry, no sale.

“He came out and discussed who he is, so there’s not much question anymore — no controversy because he said, ‘Hey, it’s me, and I’ve given to Mitt many times before,’ ” Mr. Romney said of Mr. Conard, who he described as “a longtime business associate, a friend of mine.” Later, Mr. Romney added, “I think the whole controversy with regards to his contribution kind of disappears when he came forward and said he was the contributor.”

Just because a press clamor forces a would-be secret donor into the open does not, Mr. Romney’s hopes notwithstanding, end the matter. The Romney campaign has refused to say whether the candidate was aware of Mr. Conard’s generosity before he came forward or whether Mr. Romney played any role in soliciting it. What does Mr. Romney think about the use of a sham corporation to evade disclosure rules? Was he aware that Mr. Conard was using this tactic? Is he concerned about this development?

For all the Romney campaign’s protestations that it cannot comment on the donation because Restore Our Future is an independent group, Mr. Romney has spoken at its events. As Peter Stone of the Center for Public Integrity reported, Mr. Romney took time out from raising money in New York last month to speak at a dinner for donors and potential donors hosted by Restore Our Future. Was Mr. Conard present? Did he attend earlier Restore Our Future events with Mr. Romney? When we posed these questions to the Romney campaign, we received this non-responsive response: “Governor Romney’s activities have been within both the spirit and letter of the law.”

During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Romney voluntarily revealed the names of his major fundraisers, the so-called bundlers who can haul in hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash. This time around, Mr. Romney isn’t releasing the names of bundlers, and his campaign’s “explanation” has been only that he is fully complying with all laws. During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Romney decried the insidious explosion of “political spending . . . driven into secret corners.” This time around, he seems entirely unconcerned about those corners. If Mr. Romney doesn’t get the controversy over Mr. Conard’s donation, he might check in with . . . Mitt Romney. If Mr. Romney doesn’t understand why naming his campaign bundlers is important, maybe he could do the same. Until then, we’ll keep asking.