LinkedIn co-founder pours money into Ohio races

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The co-founder of LinkedIn, a Silicon Valley-based professional networking website, has contributed more than $82,000 to statewide and Ohio legislative races this year, according to records from campaign financing.

The contributions of Reid Hoffman — a venture capitalist who was also an early PayPal executive — make him the second-most prolific individual donor in state politics this year, according to an analysis of records by state campaign financing. He follows only Virginia Ragan, heiress of hundreds of millions in shares of a Delaware County transportation and manufacturing company that has donated millions over the years to Ohio Republicans.

Since 2016, Hoffman has pumped at least $200,000 directly into Ohio politics, mostly backing Democrats. That doesn’t include his $500,000 to a PAC that spent at least $150,000 in a Cleveland-area Democratic congressional primary.

However, in February he gave $13,700 – the legal maximum – each to Governor Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose, both Republicans. Hoffman donated the same amount to four Democrats running for Congress.

In an interview, a spokesperson said Hoffman since 2016 has given candidates his primary goal of supporting “the rule of law.” This has translated more recently into support for Republicans who pushed back against efforts by President Donald Trump and his Republican Party allies who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Hoffman, through his spokesperson, expressed regret over the donations to LaRose, given his recent public statements lending credence to some of the voter fraud allegations that have bolstered Trump’s efforts.

None of the Ohio Democrats backed by Hoffman have previously held legislative office in the state. They are composed of:

  • Vince Peterson, who is in a primary for an open seat in the 64th House District
  • Sean Brennan, running for an open seat in the 14th House District
  • Evan Rosborough, who is running against incumbent Rep. Jamie Callender in the 57th Home District
  • Rachel Baker, who is running in a primary for an open seat in the 27th District.

Hoffman cited their endorsements of the Welcome PAC, a Democratic operation aimed at electing more moderate candidates in a party under a “big tent”. A PAC spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry.

Federal campaign records show since 2016 that he helped Ohio Democrats run for federal office, including current Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval ($2,700), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown ($5 $400) and Congressman Tim Ryan for his Senate campaign ($5,800). He has also given $12,700 to former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rich Cordray and $93,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party since 2018.

Hoffman also contributed $500,000 to the mainstream Democrats’ PAC, which backed a handful of moderate Democrats against progressive challengers. The cap spent over $150,000 on Nina Turnerformer Ohio State Senator and presidential campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders, during his primary against U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown.

Regretting LaRose

After the November 2020 election, LaRose emerged as a rare voice within the Republican Party acknowledging that Trump lost the election and President Joe Biden won. Speaking to Cleveland.com, he said Trump had the legal right to file a lawsuit in court, but he should do so quickly and provide evidence to back up his claims. (Asset lost 64 of 65 of his election-related lawsuits, according to one count.)

About a year after the Jan. 6 uprising in which a mob forcibly stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, LaRose began changing his public stance on the question. In February 2022, he posted on social media accusing the media of unfairly downplaying the threat of voter fraud.

“Here they go again,” LaRose tweeted. “The mainstream media tries to downplay voter fraud based on their narrative.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose speaks to reporters. (Photo by Susan Tebben, OCJ.)

In April, he appeared alongside Trump at a campaign rally in Delaware County. Trump then took to the stage to make the baseless claim that he would have won Ohio by an even bigger margin. if not for electoral fraud — in an election overseen by LaRose.

Dmitri Mehlhorn, who answered questions on Hoffman’s behalf, initially credited LaRose with rejecting pressure from within his own party to toe the line on Trump’s campaign lies. But in February 2022, he said LaRose had become more explicit that it was a “valid line of attack to label the election illegitimate.” He then expressed the donor’s remorse.

“It could have been a case where, if we had to start over, we probably wouldn’t do the same thing,” he said.

A spokesperson for the LaRose campaign did not respond to a request for information.

A lot of money

Uber rich funding state policy is nothing new. However, Hoffman’s contributions are notable for their breadth and lack of ties to Ohio. Hoffman grew up and works in California.

Additionally, perhaps due to the political dominance of Republicans in Ohio, most of the big money tends to be concentrated around Republicans.

For example, after Ragan and Hoffman, the other top donors of the year to date include Donald Oeters, who previously owned a door-to-door hobby sales business ($71,000); Jason Lucarelli, CEO of Minute Men Staffing, and his wife (about $68,000); and retired corporate lawyer Geraldine Warner and her family ($64,000). Their donations went exclusively to Republicans.

While Hoffman backed Ryan in his Senate campaign with a few thousand, his former roommate backs Republican rival JD Vance. Hoffman, according to the Silicon Valley-focused Puck media, lived with PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who pumped $15 million into organizations supporting Vance.

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