New Jersey-based Jet Set Sports is among the sponsors of the U.S. Olympic team. It could also be described as a corporate sponsor of Republican Mitt Romney’s candidacy.
It’s a sponsorship that comes with some unwelcome baggage for Romney. Jet Set’s founder was a major player in the scandal that surrounded the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic games — a mess that Romney has been credited with cleaning up.
Jet Set Sports Holding, L.P., which has offered luxury hospitality packages for the Olympic Games for three decades, is one of more than 100 companies to donate to Restore Our Future, the main super PAC backing Romney’s presidency. It donated $100,000 to the group last November.
Jet Set Sports’ connection to Romney doesn’t end there, though.
Company founder and chairman Sead Dizdarevic and his wife Margaret each donated $50,000 to Restore Our Future in January. And Jet Set Sports President Mark Lewis is working in his home state of Montana as a co-chair of Romney’s finance team.
Lewis and both Dizdarevics have also donated directly to Romney’s campaign.
Lewis gave Romney $2,300 during his failed presidential bid four years ago and has given Romney $2,500 so far this cycle. Similarly, in 2007, Sead Dizdarevic donated $2,300 to Romney and Margaret gave $1,900. This election, each has given $2,500 to Romney as he tries to unseat Obama.
A decade ago, Dizdarevic was implicated in the bribery scandal surrounding the Olympic Games in Salt Lake. Organizers of the games had allegedly offered perks to International Olympic Committee members to secure the games.
According to federal prosecutors during the subsequent trial, Dizdarevic and his sister-in-law supplied $131,000 in cash to the local organizers during the mid-1990s. Dizdarevic, who was granted immunity during the trial, said the money was part of an attempt to curry favor and secure a hospitality contract for the Utah games.
Ten International Olympic Committee members resigned or were dismissed in the wake of the corruption scandal, even though the two officials charged in the trial were ultimately acquitted.
Despite Dizdarevic’s role in the controversy, Jet Set Sports was named the official sponsor of hospitality packages for the Salt Lake City games, offering tickets, dining services, ground transportation and accommodations at some of the area’s most luxurious hotels. And Jet Set Sports has continued to win prestigious contracts for the Olympic Games ever since.
During the 2008 Beijing games, Jet Set Sports reportedly netted $70 million, although Dizdarevic has put the figure closer to between $20 million and $30 million. Ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the Seattle Times wrote that Dizdarevic stood to make more money off the games “than any single person.”
Officials from Jet Set Sports and the Romney campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Restore Our Future spokeswoman Brittany Gross said the group does not discuss its donors.