October 2, 2022
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA
Political

11 Things We Learned From The J.D. Vance Oppo Dump

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Every U.S. Senate candidate has one — a thick file of opposition research, usually commissioned both by opponents and by the candidate themselves. These dossiers can revealing anything from a speeding ticket or a bad social media post to nude photos or a $1,250 men’s haircut.

Shortly after author J.D. Vance won Ohio’s GOP Senate primary this week, Politico reported the existence of a public website containing opposition research published by a pro-Vance super PAC.

The trove of data includes a 177-page “vulnerability analysis” on the first-time candidate, revealing everything that could be used against him in the race ― including all the negative things he’s said about former President Donald Trump, articles he wrote as a Yale Law student, and social media posts about getting hammered.

“Every campaign has a self-oppo book; it’s standard,” said Taylor Van Kirk, a spokesperson for Vance. “Most of what’s in ours has already been reported.”

Here are a few things we learned reading through the report:

Vance’s allies are well aware of all the “bad shit” he said about Trump

The “Hillbilly Elegy” author has owned up to the fact that he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016, and said it took some time for him to come around to the former president. The vulnerability analysis notes the laundry list of unflattering things Vance has said about Trump, which didn’t let up until 2018. Here’s what the report says:

Vance used various descriptions of his disdain for Trump. Vance said he was a “Never Trump guy,” “never liked him,” “will never vote for Trump,” “loathed” Trump, called Trump’s election “terrible for the country,” and described him as “dangerous” and “reprehensible.” Vance claimed to have voted for Independent candidate Evan McMullin in 2016, but previously said he might vote for Hillary Clinton if it appeared that Trump would win in 2016. Vance criticized Trump’s policy proposals, saying they ranged “from immoral to absurd.” Vance likened Trump’s candidacy to heroin for his supporters and accused him of appealing to racism and xenophobia. Vance expressed support for women who accused Trump of sexually assaulting them, and wondered on Twitter “what percentage of the American population has @RealDonaldTrump sexually assaulted?”

This didn’t stop Trump from endorsing Vance for the GOP Senate nomination.

There’s no record of Vance voting between 2008 and 2016

Vance didn’t vote in nearly a decade’s worth of elections while bouncing between California, Connecticut, Ohio and Washington, D.C.

“Vance failed to vote between the 2008 general election and the 2016 general election, and has not voted in a Republican primary since 2008,” the report says. “The elections he missed included presidential elections and the 2010 election for the exact seat he might seek.”

Vance also hasn’t contributed much money to political candidates

Vance has contributed sparingly to Republicans over the years, giving $1,000 to Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), whose seat he’s trying to claim, and $500 to North Carolina congressional candidate Dan Driscoll.

Vance showing support for "hil-dog."
Vance showing support for “hil-dog.”

Vance once praised “hil-dog” for her comments about LGBTQ individuals

In 2010, Vance praised then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Facebook for supportive comments she made after several young LGBTQ people died by suicide.

The since-deleted post said: “Preach it, hil-dog. Not bad for a stinkin’ leftist (I kid I kid).”

The report also notes various instances of Vance appearing to support Clinton and other bêtes noires of the Republican Party.

Vance wasn’t just a Trump critic ― he has also made positive remarks about Democrats, including Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and the Clintons. After the 2016 election, Vance wrote an op-ed that expressed admiration for President Obama titled, “Barack Obama And Me.” In 2012, Vance said he would contribute all his money to Obama — who he credited with believing in a “strong national defense” — if Ron Paul was the Republican nominee. Prior to the 2020 election, Vance said Bernie Sanders was his favorite Democrat running in the primary. And, while reflecting on Bill Clinton’s presidency and acknowledging his faults, Vance said he previously “admired” President Clinton, calling him “one of us.” He even offered praise for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democrat Convention, calling it “a celebration of America’s promise” as compared to the “cynical flavor” of Trump’s convention.

Vance's law school-era Facebook posts reek of millennial bacchanalia.
Vance’s law school-era Facebook posts reek of millennial bacchanalia.

Vance liked to party, cringey millennial-style

The report dug into old social media posts showing that Vance, like any elder millennial, liked to have a good time in the early 2000s and post too much about it on Facebook.

While Vance was enrolled at Yale Law School in 2010, he posted about playing “beer pong,” going to law school to learn “how to be an alcoholic,” and “eating sushi and getting wasted for his 23rd” birthday.

Vance joked about getting drunk at an election night party this week, but the experience isn’t the same for him now.

“I’m 37 years old. I’ve got my celebration package — a pack of Gatorade, a couple of Advil and some Tums. I’m not the same man I was 10 years ago,” he said.

Vance’s $1.4 million Cincinnati home was thought to be a stop on the Underground Railroad

Vance, who is also a venture capitalist, purchased a 5,000-square-foot home in Cincinnati’s tony East Walnut Hills. The house was built in 1858, and comes with rich history ― including the lore that it was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the network that helped enslaved people escape to the free states. But former homeowners said they never discovered anything in the house to support that claim.

Vance's home in Cincinnati.
Vance’s home in Cincinnati.

The five-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom house overlooks the Ohio River and has a carriage house, a gated pool, and hiking trails on three acres.

The home is about 35 miles from where Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio.

His wife clerked for Supreme Court justices

Vance met his wife, Usha, at Yale Law School. As an attorney, she clerked for Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, while he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. She also clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. (Vance, meanwhile, worked at the white-shoe law firm Sidley Austin.)

The report also notes that in 2017, Vance and his wife established separate home bases, he in Columbus and she in D.C., so they could each pursue their careers. That was a year after Vance released his best-selling memoir, and he returned to Ohio to do venture capital work and start a nonprofit.

Vance’s Ohio nonprofit was a bust

Vance’s nonprofit, Our Ohio Renewal, was aimed at combating the state’s opioid epidemic. According to public tax records, though, it didn’t do much of anything, and has largely been inactive since 2017 — despite Vance claiming otherwise.

Vance discussed the nonprofit many times in interviews, and it is frequently mentioned in biographical material for Vance. Despite the stated intentions of Our Ohio Renewal, the organization does not appear to be outwardly engaged based on available public records. IRS records indicate the nonprofit has been largely defunct since 2017, reporting raising less than $50,000 in 2018 and 2019. In a 2019 interview, Vance maintained that Our Ohio Renewal was still active, despite the organization’s website being down. When Our Ohio Renewal was active, records indicate that the limited amount raised was spent mostly on staff salaries and overhead, with $0 spent on charitable activities and grants.

Vance is a Big Tech critic who owes his career to Big Tech

A main plank of Vance’s campaign is criticizing tech giants for supposedly unfairly minimizing conservative viewpoints, but Vance basically owes his career to the men behind Big Tech platforms.

“Vance has positioned himself as a critic of Big Tech and supporter of increased regulation of the industry,” the report states. “But Vance’s career has been heavily financed by the leaders of Big Tech. Investors in Rise of the Rest, the fund that Vance helped manage, include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.”

Vance also founded Narya Capital, a venture capital firm based in Ohio and partially funded by Schmidt and two Facebook directors. Before that, he worked for Revolution LLC, a firm that the report notes was started by AOL founder Steve Case.

Vance’s campaign was also bankrolled by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor who poured $13 million into the super PAC supporting Vance.

Vance grew up James Hamel

For a time, Vance used his stepfather’s surname, Hamel, which is the name he went by in his high school years. He later changed his name to Vance, his paternal grandfather’s last name.

Vance is a member of the establishment elite

Even though Vance grew up modestly, he’s acknowledged that his education and career path make him a member of the same elite class he rails against. He owns a nice house, lives in an exclusive neighborhood, and has an Ivy League education and access to wealthy connections.

“I react viscerally to this idea that I am a member of the elite, even though it’s objectively true,” Vance told the Financial Times in 2018.

In 2017, The Washington Post included this detail about how life has changed for Vance since his book: He ate a $46 steak, drank a $17 martini and stayed in a $700-a-night hotel room for a speech he gave at the New York City University Club.



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