WASHINGTON — On Dec. 31, a conservative super PAC supporting Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — one of the most pivotal swing votes in Washington — received a $150,000 donation from a mysterious company based in Hawaii.

The Campaign Legal Center now says that contribution could be illegal.

On Monday, the nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission asking it to investigate the donation and the company that made it — the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers.

The Daily Beast appears to be the first news outlet to report on the complaint.

According to the Campaign Legal Center, the company appears to have been formed for the sole purpose of disguising where its money comes from.

Hawaii business records show the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers was created on Nov. 26, just one month before it gave $150,000 to 1820 PAC, which is the political action committee supporting Collins’ campaign.

The registered agent and person signing the documents is a person by the name of Jennifer Lam.

The Campaign Legal Center complaint notes that the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers barely leaves a public footprint. It’s mailing address is a PO Box at a post office on Merchant Street in downtown Honolulu.

The company has no website, social media account or online presence.

There also didn’t appear to be any record of business income or investment revenue that could be used to pay for the $150,000 donation to the PAC “without an infusion of funds” for that specific purpose.

Brendan Fischer, who’s an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, said there’s a long history of wealthy donors using LLCs to launder big donations to super PACs while keeping their true identities hidden from the public.

One of the most recent high profile examples, he said, involved Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two associates of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who are now key players in Trump’s impeachment.

Parnas and Fruman were charged by the U.S. Justice Department of making illegal “straw man” donations through their company Global Energy Producers LLC to a super PAC supporting President Donald Trump.

Fischer said the $150,000 donation from the Society of Young Women Scientist and Engineers LLC follows a similar pattern as Global Energy Producers LLC.

“There’s no record of this entity conducting any business activity or other activities that would generate revenue or income,” Fischer said. “All the evidence suggests that this LLC was set up and used in order to facilitate the donation while keeping the true identity of the donor a secret.”

You can read the complaint here:

Support local journalism

Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.

About the Author