A group backing Republican John Kasich‘s presidential aspirations received $500,000 in seed money from a seemingly odd source, according to documents filed today: an obscure limited liability company in Montana.
But a Center for Public Integrity review of business filings indicates the company is linked to someone quite familiar to Kasich, the current governor of Ohio — a venture capitalist who served in Kasich’s administration.
The limited liability company, called MMWP12 LLC, made a half-million-dollar donation to the pro-Kasich New Day Independent Media Committee the day after the company formed.
Making matters murkier: MMWP12 LLC is actually controlled by another Montana-based company called K2M LLC, according to state business records.
This second company lists just two officers: Mark Kvamme, the Ohio venture capitalist and former Kasich administration official, and Paul Johannsen, a real estate developer in Whitefish, Montana, near Glacier National Park.
Some campaign finance reform advocates worry that limited liability companies can serve as vehicles for megadonors to inject big bucks to political efforts while hiding their identities from voters.
That’s because some states, unlike Montana, don’t require LLCs to identify the living, breathing people who own or control them. Instead, they need to provide only the name of a “registered agent,” which is often a company that exists only to serve as the registered agents for LLCs.
Little is publicly known about Johannsen’s political leanings, but Kvamme is a long-time Kasich ally.
After Kasich was elected governor in 2011, he enticed Kvamme to leave California and pursue public service.
Kvamme went on to serve three months as the director of Ohio’s Department of Development and then worked for four months as Kasich’s director of job creation.
He then founded and led a nonprofit group called JobsOhio that promoted job creation and economic development in the Buckeye State.
Ohio campaign finance records show Kvamme has also personally donated more than $100,000 since 2010 to Kasich and other Ohio Republicans, including the state GOP.
Moreover, according to the Columbus Dispatch, Kvamme has provided Kasich his private jet for travel to New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary election contest next year.
Neither Johannsen nor Kvamme immediately responded to requests for comment from the Center for Public Integrity.
Kasich officially announced his presidential bid last week, entering a packed Republican field now featuring 17 candidates. A network of pro-Kasich groups, including New Day Independent Media Committee, is also working to amass cash and build support for his campaign.
New Day Independent Media Committee operates as a so-called “527 committee,” after the section of the U.S. tax code that governs its activities. It files campaign finance reports with the Internal Revenue Service instead of the Federal Election Commission. Overall, it raised $600,000 in June.
A separate pro-Kasich group called New Day for America today reported raising more than $11 million, including $200,000 from Kvamme’s parents, Floyd and Jean Kvamme.
Floyd Kvamme is an investor who served on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential finance team.
The pro-Kasich committees are allowed to accept unlimited contributions, including corporate contributions. They cannot, however, coordinate their spending with Kasich’s campaign.
Meanwhile, federal candidates cannot collect direct contributions from corporations and cannot accept more than $2,700 per person, per election.
Kasich’s own campaign will not file its first campaign finance report until October.
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