During Romney’s first presidential run in 2008, Vivint employees donated more than $10,000 to his campaign; Pedersen and Dunn also gave $21,000 to Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. During this cycle, direct employee contributions to his campaign have increased to more than $80,000. In June 2011, Pedersen hosted a Romney fundraiser at his Orem, Utah, home; and nine of Vivint’s top 13 executives made the maximum contribution. Pedersen and Dunn and their wives also cochaired a private fundraiser for Romney this June in Salt Lake City, where $10,000 got attendees access to a VIP reception with the candidate.
The two couples have directly contributed more than $300,000 to Romney, allied GOP committees, and pro-Romney PACs during his current bid. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, each of the four gave Romney the maximum $5,000 (half for the primaries, half for the general election). They also each contributed $65,800 through Romney Victory Inc., the affiliated fundraising corporation, to allied Republican committees. That’s on top of a combined $34,000 from Pedersen and Dunn to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future and Free & Strong America PACs.
Debbie and Alex Dunn did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Andie Pedersen directed a request for comment to her husband’s office, which directed the request to Vivint’s public-relations office, which did not respond to several inquiries.
Steve Schwarzman, the chairman of Blackstone, which bought Vivint, is another Romney friend who donated the legal maximums of $5,000 to Romney and $30,800 to the Republican National Committee. He also hosted a Romney fundraiser at his home in New York. Blackstone declined to comment about how much it knew of Vivint’s reputation before the private-equity firm bought the company.
Politicians are often linked to donors whose dubious activities they claim not to have known about. (Obama, for instance, helped score tax breaks as a state and U.S. senator for Chicago developers, some of whose projects fell into disrepair.) Vivint shows that the networks closest to a pol are the ones most likely to fall into a blind spot. Romney’s relationships with his alumni network and Utah’s Mormon business community are closer than his ties to supporters who came on board more recently, says Matthew Burbank, a professor of political science at the University of Utah. And greater intimacy leads to lower scrutiny. “Things like being an active member of your church and being a BYU grad, people tend to assume that if that’s the case, there aren’t other problems here,” he says. “And it can be a mistaken assumption.”
This article orignally appeared in print as "Bad Company."
This article appears in the Oct. 13, 2012, edition of National Journal.