In his statement to The Times, Mr. Vance said he had donated $80,000 of his own money to the nonprofit group, which was about a third of the $221,000 that it reported having raised over its lifetime. He declined to identify the group’s other donors.
Mr. Vance said he did not take a salary. He did not have a formal leadership role but called himself “honorary chairman.”
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“I won’t promise anything for now, besides this: I will work hard to find solutions to the opioid and joblessness problems, and when we identify workable solutions, we’ll do something about them,” he wrote to members of his advisory board in 2017. He signed off, “Looking forward to doing some good, JD.”
Mr. Vance wanted to help grandparents, like his, who stepped in to raise children when parents were absent or unable. The task of figuring out how to do so fell to Jamil Jivani, a friend of Vance’s from Yale Law School who had been hired as the group’s director of law and policy. Mr. Jivani and two researchers paid by Ohio State University — where Mr. Vance was a “scholar in residence” in the political science department — spent months researching family law, looking for policies that could be changed.
At the time, Mr. Vance was traveling for speeches, working for an investment firm and splitting his time between Ohio and Washington, where his wife and young son lived. Mr. Vance was largely absent from the nonprofit group’s offices, according to an employee at the organization, who asked not to be identified while describing the group’s inner workings. The person often studied in Mr. Vance’s spacious and frequently empty office on campus. “It was very quiet,” the person said.
Another person who worked for the nonprofit group said that, in hindsight, it had seemed aimed at serving Mr. Vance’s ambition by giving him a presence in a state where he had not lived full-time for several years. The person said it had felt as if much of the job involved giving outsiders the impression that Mr. Vance was in the state, said the person, who asked not to be identified for fear of antagonizing Mr. Vance and his supporters.
In November 2017, the group’s research produced a result: an op-ed in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. In that piece, Mr. Vance urged the Ohio Legislature to adopt a bill that would help “kinship caregivers” like his grandparents.