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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Restore Our Future

Political leanings: Republican/Pro-Romney Super PAC

Spending target: Undisclosed

Restore Our Future is a “super PAC” created by three former campaign staffers of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The pro-Romney political action committee is part of a new breed of so-called independent PACs formed to support a particular candidate. Such groups are an outgrowth of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — a January 2010 ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend freely on political ads to influence federal elections.

Restore Our Future was formed in October 2010, declaring in a statement of organization filing with the Federal Election Commission that it intended to “raise funds in unlimited amounts.” It must, however, disclose its donors.

The group raised and spent no money in 2010, as it explained to the FEC in a March 2011 letter. It wasn’t until June 23 that the group formally announced its launch — issuing a press release saying it would “independently advocate on behalf of Romney and his mission of economic recovery and job creation throughout the 2012 election.” The press release identified three founding board members, all veterans of Romney’s failed 2008 presidential campaign: Carl Forti, Romney’s national political director; Charlie Spies, who was the Romney campaign’s chief finance officer and counsel; and Larry McCarthy, who was a member of Romney’s media team.

Brittany Gross, a spokeswoman for Restore Our Future who works for Forti’s consulting firm BlackRockGroup, told us that all three remain on the board and that there are no other board members. Gross also said Forti remains a consultant to American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, two well-funded sister organizations associated with former Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove.

As of June 30, Restore Our Future had raised $82 million and spent $60 million, including $53 million on independent expenditures. Contributions included $1 million donations each from three companies: F8 LLC, W Spann LLC and Eli Publishing Inc. In particular, the $1 million check from Spann LLC generated a flurry of news stories, because the group was formed shortly before making its donation and dissolved soon after. The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21, two nonpartisan groups that advocate for tighter campaign finance laws, filed an FEC complaint against Spann and called for an investigation into possible campaign finance law violations. Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer said in a press release that “it appears that someone has gone to great lengths to evade the campaign finance disclosure laws in order to hide what they are doing from the American people.”

Edward Conard, a former business partner of Romney’s at Bain Capital, later told Politico that he formed Spann and authorized the donation. Restore Our Future filed an amended midyear report in August to report that Conard, not Spann LLC, was responsible for the $1 million donation.

Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 filed similar FEC complaints against Eli Publishing and F8 LLC, two companies based in Utah — where Romney has a strong fundraising network.

In addition to corporate donations, 16 individuals gave $1 million or more — including Texas developer Bob Perry, who gave $6 million, which is the largest single donation to date. Perry provided the seed money for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s Vietnam War record during the 2004 campaign. Casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each contributed $5 million. Hotel moguls Richard E. Marriott and J.W. Marriott Jr. each gave $1 million.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that Steve Roche left Romney’s campaign finance team in the summer of 2011 to help raise money for Restore Our Future. Gross, the PAC’s spokeswoman, confirmed that Roche “did join the team,” but declined to say in what capacity. She also declined to disclose the group’s fundraising goals, saying it’s the group’s policy not to comment on political strategy.

Update, July 25: We updated this item to reflect campaign finance data through June 30, 2012.