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Former JobsOhio chief donated $10K to House leader

Julie Carr Smyth, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The California venture capitalist hired by Republican Gov. John Kasich for a dollar to help jump-start Ohio's job-creation efforts made a hefty donation to Ohio's House speaker on his way out the door.

Mark Kvamme, Kasich's friend and former economic development adviser, contributed $10,000 to Republican Bill Batchelder's 2012 campaign on Nov. 1, state campaign finance records show. That was the day after Kvamme left the helm of the state's private nonprofit job-creation entity, which has been the subject of legal and political disagreements since it was created in 2011.

Under Batchelder, House Republicans spearheaded legislation creating JobsOhio and just last week fast-tracked a measure shielding JobsOhio's private dollars from public audit. The bill specifically defined proceeds of JobsOhio's $1.5 billion bond deal — which Kvamme helped craft — as private money.

The amendment, signed into law by Kasich on Tuesday, drew criticism from Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, Kasich's fellow Republican, as well as legislative Democrats.

Batchelder's spokesman said contributions play no role in what legislation is pursued, and that holds for the JobsOhio audit measure.

Spokesman Mike Dittoe said the speaker and the caucus passed the amendment to clarify the Legislature's initial intent that only the public side of JobsOhio's books would be subject to public audit. An independent audit is conducted of the entity under another part of the law.

"It had zero to do with any type of financial contribution from Mark Kvamme, none whatsoever," Dittoe said. "I would go even further as to say that people provide financial contributions to the individual caucuses because they believe in what the caucuses are doing, not because they are seeking something to be done. We are not in the business of accepting contributions and then turning that into legislative priorities for those people."

Since leaving JobsOhio, Kvamme has co-founded a Columbus-based venture firm, Drive Capital LLC, with a fellow alum of Sequoia Capital. He said he was not able to comment immediately when reached Friday.

State and federal filings show Kvamme also gave politically while working at JobsOhio.

He listed himself as a special limited partner at Sequoia Capital when donating to state Rep. Mike Duffey in November 2011. Duffey, a Worthington Republican, sponsored the original legislation creating JobsOhio.

Dittoe said Kvamme knows Duffey very well.

"Mark Kvamme has gotten to know a lot of the legislators in his time here and believes in what they're trying to accomplish, and is not making contributions for any sort of improper reason whatsoever," Dittoe said. "And certainly the caucus isn't accepting anything improper either."

Kvamme also gave $5,000 to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's 2012 U.S. Senate campaign in December 2011, listing his employer at JobsOhio, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Since leaving JobsOhio, he has also given $22,500 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, center data show.