Buying of the President

Published — March 2, 2016

Pro-Chris Christie super PAC bankroller accused of breaking law

Decor Services LLC contributed $250,000 to America Leads days after forming


Two government reform organizations today accused a mysterious Delaware-based company of violating federal campaign finance laws.

As first reported by the Center for Public Integrity, Decor Services LLC contributed $250,000 on Jan. 12 to America Leads, a super PAC that backed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s failed presidential bid.

Donald Simon, general counsel for Democracy 21, argued that this limited liability company could simply be an “anonymous conduit” for “hiding the true source of the funds.” That’s why, along with the Campaign Legal Center, the group has now asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate the matter.

The only name connected to Decor Services LLC in public records is the Wilmington, Delaware-based Corporation Service Company, a firm that serves as a registered agent for thousands of corporate entities.

Adding to the mystery? Decor Services LLC’s six-figure donation came just 16 days after the company’s formation.

As the Center for Public Integrity has previously noted, limited liability companies formed in Delaware are essentially black boxes.

Certain limited liability companies have long been allowed to make limited donations directly to political candidates. But in such cases, a living, breathing human must be named as the source of the money.

At the federal level, LLCs cannot be used by individuals to evade campaign contribution limits.

Super PACs, however, have no contribution limits. And rules for politicking by corporations, including LLCs, have been loosened in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010.

The result: an increased flow of money into federal politics from LLCs — with no additional disclosure about where the money is coming from.

“Thanks to the FEC’s inaction, we’re seeing a growing trend of campaign donors skirting disclosure laws by hiding behind corporations to anonymously fund elections,” Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement. “We call on the FEC to enforce the law. Otherwise, big super PAC donors face no consequences, while Americans have no way of knowing who is funding and influencing elections, including whether illegal foreign money is creeping into American elections.”

Virginia-based consultant Tim Koch, treasurer of America Leads, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The pro-Christie super PAC raised nearly $20 million before Christie dropped out of the GOP primary in early February.

Christie has since endorsed Republican Party presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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