Major Hogsett donor 'Indy Project Venture' won't disclose identity

In a campaign with no shortage of high-dollar, high-profile donors, why did a company less than a week old donate $50,000 to Joe Hogsett?

The answer remains unclear.

Hogsett campaign records show Indy Project Venture made a single $50,000 donation on August 17, just five days after paperwork was filed with the Secretary of State's office bringing the company into existence.

Because Indy Project Venture was formed as an LLC, the state isn't required to keep more on file than its registered agent. In this case, that's National Corporate Research, a New York-based company specializing in acting as other company's registered agents.

Project Venture's registered address is a home on the south side of Indianapolis, where Shari Obermeyer runs her business, Central Indiana Paralegal Services. Obermeyer says she acts as National Corporate Research's agent in Indiana. She had to search through the roughly 4,000 companies she acts as agent for to determine if Project Venture is on that list. It is, she said, but couldn't offer any other details.

The donation stands out precisely because there's nobody's name attached to it. While that doesn't violate any legal requirements, Hogsett's other donors -- some of whom have given more than $100,000 since he launched his campaign last year -- haven't been shy about attaching their names to contributions.

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Hogsett's largest contributor is Jeffery M. Mallamad, a partner at downtown law firm Barnes & Thornburg. He donated $124,000 in 2014 and another $21,000 this year, for a total of $145,000.

Another law firm, Bose McKinney & Evans – where Hogsett joined as a partner in August 2014 after leaving the U.S. Attorney's Office – donated $127,000 between 2014 and 2015. A Bose McKinney & Evans partner, Gregory Hahn, also chipped in $20,000.

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Project Venture's $50,000 donation puts it in a three-way tie with Pacers owner Herb Simon and RCI founder Christel DeHaan to be Hogsett's third-largest donor. Simon's and DeHaan's names are on their donations, though.

Hogsett spokesman Thomas Cook said the campaign can only speculate about who Project Venture is.

"It's likely a subsidiary of the business where it's located," Cook said.

State campaign finance law requires campaigns to record the name and address of donor, as well as amount and date, for any cumulative contribution above $100 in a reporting period (IC 3-9-5-14). Though Project Venture's certificate of organization points to National Corporate Research and Obermeyer's business on the south side, campaign finance information filed by Hogsett has a different address for the donation's origin: 800 E. 96th Street, Suite #175. That address belongs to Scannell Properties, one of Indianapolis' largest commercial real estate developers.

Project Venture's certificate of organization also contains a link to Scannell Properties in the form of the electronic signature of James Carlino, a partner and general counsel for the company.

Carlino acknowledged he's involved in Indy Project Venture, but wouldn't disclose any details, including what, if any, relationship the group has to Scannell Properties (outside of his own involvement).

"It's a company with a group of owners that I'm not at liberty to disclose," Carlino said. "All I can tell you is, I'm the one who formed the company."

Carlino is a former Bose McKinney & Evans partner who previously represented real estate clients like Simon Properties and Eli Lilly before moving to Scannell Properties in 2006.

He wouldn't say if Indy Project Venture had donated or intended to donate to any other candidates, though an analysis of Marion County campaign finance records turned up no other contributions by the group.

Indiana's campaign finance law imposes no contribution limits on individuals, PACs or party committees for any candidate in any election, be it a statewide office or local school board. Corporations do have limits imposed on them, but LLCs are explicitly defined as not corporations in state campaign finance law.

Carlino declined to answer questions about why Project Venture was formed or why the donation to Hogsett's campaign was made, save to say the group had an interest in promoting "good government." He said the donation wasn't solicited by the Hogsett campaign.

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