- JD Vance is running for Senate in Ohio as a savior of the Midwest.
- A nonprofit he started to fight the opioid epidemic seems to have faltered.
- Vance’s track record is the subject of an Insider deep-dive.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On the heels of “Hillbilly Elegy’s” best-selling success in 2016, author JD Vance wrote a New York Times op-ed announcing that he was moving back to his native Ohio. The reason: a nonprofit aimed at combating the state’s opioid epidemic.
“I’ve talked about these problems and I came to the conclusion that maybe I should be doing something to solve them,” Vance told The Columbus Dispatch at the time.
Five years later, the much-ballyhooed nonprofit Our Ohio Renewal seems to have faltered before it ever got off the ground. Its status is now raising questions about the credentials of Vance, who has entered a crowded Republican primary to replace retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman in 2022.
A review by Insider of the nonprofit’s tax filings showed that in its first year, Our Ohio Renewal spent more on “management services” provided by its executive director Jai Chabria – who also serves as Vance’s top political advisor – than it did on programs to fight opioid abuse.
The group, which has shut down its website and abandoned its Twitter account after publishing only two tweets, says it commissioned a survey to gauge the needs and welfare of Ohioans.
Vance’s campaign declined to provide any documentation of the project when Insider asked about it. His campaign also declined to comment on the record about Our Ohio Renewal’s work. As Insider prepared to publish its story, Vance attended a “Rally 4 Recovery” event in Dayton for families who have suffered from addiction.
-Ohio War Room (@OhioWarRoom) August 30, 2021
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance, the state’s largest anti-opioid coalition, said in an interview she hadn’t heard of Vance’s organization.
The nonprofit raised so little in each of the last three years – less than $US50,000 ($AU68,335) a year – that it wasn’t even required by the IRS to disclose its activities and finances.
“It’s a superficial way for him to say he’s helping Ohio,” says Doug White, a philanthropy adviser and former director of Columbia University’s master of science in fundraising management.
Back in 2017, Vance tapped his best friend from Yale University law school, Jamil Jivani, to help run the operation, advising him on law and policy. Soon after Jivani decamped from Toronto to Columbus to help launch Our Ohio Renewal, he fell ill with stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and left Ohio in 2018.
“It looks different now, with him being a Senate candidate,” Jivani told Insider in an exclusive interview.