A campaign finance watchdog group on Monday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) claiming that an obscure Hawaiian company made an illegal six-figure straw donation to a political action committee (PAC) aimed at helping embattled Republican Sen. Susan Collins win re-election in Maine.
According to the FEC complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers (SYWSE) is a limited liability company which filed its articles of incorporation using a Hawaii P.O. box mailing address in late November and appears to exist solely for the purpose of making political contributions to a pro-Collins PAC in an effort to avoid reporting requirements.
The only publicly available information regarding the company is that on Dec. 31, five weeks after its inception, SYWSE gave $150,000 to 1820 PAC, a group named for the year of Maine’s founding which spent approximately $700,000 on ads backing Collins’s re-election.
The company lists only one name, Jennifer Lam, as SYWSE’s sole registered agent and manager.
“The available facts do not suggest that SYWSE conducted any business or had sufficient income from assets, investment earnings, business revenues, or bona fide capital investments to cover the $150,000 contribution to 1820 PAC at the time the contribution was made, without an infusion of funds provided to them for that purpose,” the complaint stated. “The temporal proximity between SYWSE’s formation and its contribution, viewed in the context of its overall activities, strongly suggest that it received funds for the specific purpose of making this contribution: SYWSE was formed on Nov. 26, 2019, then made a $150,000 contribution on Dec. 31, 2019.”
The complaint then cited to the federal law which prohibits straw donations, which are donations that intentionally hide the true source of the funds being contributed:
Therefore, based on published reports, there is reason to believe that SYWSE violated 52 USC § 30122 by “[g]iving money…, all or part of which was provided to” the entity by another person (i.e., the true contributor(s)) without disclosing the true source of money at the time of making the contribution to 1820 PAC.”
CLC requested that the FEC conduct an immediate investigation of SYWSE, urging the commission to “seek appropriate sanctions for any and all violations, including civil penalties sufficient to deter future violations,” as well as an injunction barring the company from making further contributions.
Read the full complaint below:
[image via Zach Gibson_Getty Images]