A group with links to the Democratic Party is accusing two companies that gave $175,000 to a super-PAC backing Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush of violating campaign finance laws.
The complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission by the American Democracy Legal Fund, a group run by former Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse, is based largely on Bloomberg reports that showed little public information available about the companies making the donations, Tread Standard LLC and Tierranueva LLC. The complaint also named Jonathan Jaffe, the COO of Lennar Corp, the nation's second-largest homebuilder. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Tierranueva has shared an address with Jaffe and also bought and sold a home that his father had owned. Jaffe didn't respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The complaint also accused Right to Rise USA, the pro-Bush super-PAC that received the LLCs' funds, of accepting the contributions "even though it was certainly aware of the individual(s) or entities that were the true source of the funds." Right to Rise is run by Mike Murphy, who was a top adviser to Bush's two successful campaigns for Florida governor.
Paul Lindsay, the spokesman for Right to Rise, said the super-PAC has fully complied with the law, and said American Democracy Legal Fund was a "sham group" with the "sole purpose of filing frivolous complaints against conservative candidates and organizations."
"This complaint is worth less than an order of Trump Steaks," Lindsay said.
Some see it differently. Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer with the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, noted that federal law prohibits groups from making donations in the name of others and said there should be red flags when LLCs are created just before making large campaign donation. Tread Standard was formed in Delaware in April, just a month and a half before making a $150,000 gift to Right to Rise.
Ryan also thinks its unlikely the complaint will go anywhere, thanks to the politically gridlocked FEC. He pointed to a complaint his group made during the 2012 presidential election over a $1 million donation that W Spann LLC made shortly after being created to a super-PAC backing Mitt Romney. Edward Conard, a former colleague of Romney’s at Bain Capital, came forward as the mystery donor after the complaint was filed. The FEC still hasn't investigated, Ryan said.
"That gives you some insight into how dysfunctional the FEC is," Ryan said. "And that itself is a scandal: That the FEC is not enforcing its own laws during the cycle."
Little-known LLCs have poured millions of dollars into elections since a 2010 court decision that paved the way for unlimited corporate contributions to independent political groups. Some of these companies don't publicly disclose their ownership, and can be used to help wealthy individuals hide donations.
Tread Standard and Tierranueva were both incorporated by Vivian Rivero, a paralegal at the Miami corporate law firm Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod, according to documents Bloomberg obtained last month.
(Contributing: Zachary Mider)