Apr 22, 2022 - Politics & Policy

J.D. Vance's investments made use of H-1B visas he opposes

Photo illustration of J.D. Vance and elements of visa paperwork.

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Gaelen Morse/Bloomberg via Getty Images

J.D. Vance has spoken out strongly against H-1B visas as a Senate candidate in Ohio, but his history as a venture capitalist tells a different story.

  • Around three dozen companies in which Vance-affiliated funds invested, and in which he still has economic interests, have applied for the visas, which often are used by American tech companies to hire highly skilled foreign workers.

Why it matters: Vance and former President Trump are slated to appear together tomorrow night at a rally in Ohio, where H-1B visas are often used as rhetorical punching bags by candidates seeking to appeal to blue-collar workers.

  • Trump tightened H-1B visa eligibility while in office, after having pledged to "end forever" the program on the campaign trail. His recent endorsement of Vance has been controversial among Republicans in Ohio, where Democrats hope to flip a seat in November.

Background: Vance, who got his start in venture capital with Peter Thiel, in 2017 joined Steve Case's Revolution to invest in Midwestern startups. Two years later he left Revolution to co-found his own firm in Ohio, called Narya.

What we're watching: Thirty-eight companies that received investment from Revolution's first Rise of the Rest fund and/or Narya have applied for H-1B visas, according to Senate financial disclosures and the Department of Homeland Security database. Among them:

  • StockX, a Detroit-based online sneaker marketplace, filed 31 petitions for H1-B visas between 2019 and 2022, for both initial and continuing employment.
  • FiscalNote, which owns CQ Roll Call, filed 15 petitions between 2015 and 2021.
  • AppHarvest, an indoor tomato grower in Kentucky that's now publicly traded, filed five petitions in 2021 and 2022. Vance was on AppHarvest's board of directors until April 2021.

What he's saying: “The companies I invest in sometimes have thousands of shareholders. I do not control their decisions," Vance tells Axios. "I believe the H1B visa is abused, because too many companies take advantage of them to undercut the wages of American workers. I’ve never encouraged the companies I’ve invested in to use the program.” 

  • At a campaign stop in Dayton, Ohio in January, Vance called the H-1B visa "an unholy alliance between government and our biggest corporations."

The bottom line: Politicians with professional investing backgrounds often find their rhetoric coming into conflict with their résumé.

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