POLITICS
07/14/2016 03:31 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2017

Here's What You Should Know About Mike Pence

The Indiana governor is reportedly Donald Trump's vice presidential pick.
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Donald Trump has reportedly tapped Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) as his vice presidential running mate, a move that top GOP officials and key Trump advisers have indicated they would support.

Here are some things you should know about the man who could become the country’s second-in-command: 

He has a long political resume ― something Trump himself lacks.

After graduating law school, Pence worked as a private practice attorney for several years. After mounting two unsuccessful campaigns for Congress, he became the president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a right-wing think tank. As Indianapolis Monthly wrote in 2013, Pence tripled the organization’s fundraising haul while “expanding his understanding of Republican policies,” prepping him for his political future.

After a successful stint as a conservative talk radio host, Pence decided to run for Congress again in 2000. He was elected to represent Indiana’s 2nd District, and served in the House until his election as governor in 2013. 

While in Congress, he served on the Foreign Affairs committee and several other subcommittees. He was also chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009 to 2011, and was a member of the Tea Party Caucus.

After much speculation that he would do so, Pence announced in May 2011 that he would run for governor of Indiana. He went on to defeat Democratic nominee John Gregg, the former Indiana House speaker, in November 2012.

His handling of LGBT rights drew national attention.

Pence drew national criticism in March 2015 for signing a “religious freedom” law that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Pence maintained that the law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was meant to provide individuals and corporations with a defense if they were sued by a private party for denying services based on religious beliefs. But it was written so broadly that many businesses and LGBT advocates warned that it opened the door to widespread discrimination.

The law sparked an immediate backlash from LGBT-friendly companies, which protested with economic sanctions. Angie’s List canceled a planned $40 million expansion in the state. Apple and Marriott condemned the law, and some states and localities signed orders boycotting Indiana.

As a result, just days after signing it, Pence quietly worked with state legislators to revise the law to explicitly bar businesses from denying services to someone based on a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity. But the “fix” left everyone unhappy: LGBT groups were disappointed the state didn’t repeal the law altogether, and Republicans lost the support of the religious right backing the original law.

He supported the war in Iraq.

Pence was a major, unapologetic supporter of the Iraq War ― a war that Trump has campaigned forcefully against and insists now that he opposed, even though he was quoted as supporting it before it began.

A strong illustration of Pence’s position came in an appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire” on Sept. 23, 2002. During that appearance, Pence insisted that there was a “connection between Iraq and al Qaeda.” Under pushback, he conceded that there was no proof of such a tie. But he maintained that there was “overwhelming evidence... to suggest a connection.”

Pence’s case for an invasion was based on more than a perceived al Qaeda tie. A few weeks after the “Crossfire” segment, he called Saddam Hussein “a threat to America’s national security and to world stability.”

This, too, runs against Trump’s current messaging, which holds that Hussein, while a bad guy, did wonders in achieving stability thanks to his flair for killing terrorists. During that 2002 “Crossfire” appearance, Pence saw things differently.

“I believe that the next logical step in the war on terrorism is to confront Saddam Hussein once and for all,” he said. “We’re not beyond a reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein and his regime has been behind a decades-long war of revenge against the United States of America, using surrogate terrorist organizations to kill Americans and to kill Jews. We don’t have proof of that, but there is an enormous amount of evidence to suggest that at the very core, worldwide terrorism are the resources and the intelligence and the malevolence that is Saddam Hussein.”

He expanded Medicaid in Indiana.

On most domestic policy issues, Pence is an orthodox conservative Republican, but he did go out on a limb when it came to one big thing: Obamacare.

Pence, like Trump adviser and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), is among a minority of Republican governors who implemented the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to poor adults who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,000 a year for a single person.

Expanding Medicaid in Indiana rankled conservatives hell-bent on resisting Obamacare in all its forms, but it also provided health benefits to about 370,000 Iow-income Indianans as of Jan. 31. That’s despite Pence’s continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act itself, which he, along with virtually every other Republican official, has criticized.

But Pence extracted major concessions from the Obama administration in return for carrying out the coverage expansion. The Hoosier State’s version of the program, dubbed Healthy Indiana, requires beneficiaries to bear more of their medical costs and jump through more hoops than they would under traditional Medicaid. And Pence currently is mired in a dispute with federal authorities over their review of whether his version of Medicaid expansion is working as intended.

The Koch brothers like him.

One thing that Pence could bring to a Trump ticket is access to the wealthy donor network created by the billionaire Koch brothers.

Pence has long been a favorite politician of Charles and David Koch, the latter of whom donated $300,000 to Pence’s gubernatorial bids. A 2014 Politico article noted that Pence has attended several Koch donor seminars by invitation. His staffers have also made their way into the Koch orbit: Pence’s former congressional chief of staff Marc Short was one of the most powerful Koch aides in his role helming Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, until he left in 2015 to work for the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

According to Politico, other former Pence aides who went to work for Freedom Partners include Emily Seidel and Andy Koenig. Koch Industries, the privately held conglomerate owned by the Kochs, even employs Matt Lloyd, a former Pence spokesman.

 

He criticized Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

When Trump suggested blocking all Muslims from immigrating to the U.S. in December, Pence was one of many Republicans who condemned the idea.

Pence has stood by his opposition even as he has supported Trump’s campaign, telling ABC News that his endorsement of Trump doesn’t preclude him from disagreeing with the real estate mogul on some issues.

“Look, I served in Congress for 12 years, I’ve been governor for three and a half years. I haven’t agreed with every one of my Republican colleagues or Democratic colleagues on every issue. But I’m supporting Donald Trump because we need change in this country,” he said this week. “I believe he represents the kind of strong leadership at home and abroad that will, to borrow a phrase, make America great again.”

He also splits with Trump on trade.

Another key facet of Trump’s campaign that the two Republicans disagree on is free trade. But as The Washington Post notes, Pence voted in favor of every free trade agreement that came up while he was in Congress. He’s also a supporter of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump’s criticism of these agreements, however, is a central aspect of his campaign. He’s called the TPP a “disaster pushed by special interests who want to rape our country,” and has threatened to impose steep tariffs on Chinese and Mexican imports if elected. (The GOP platform also reflects Trump’s trade views.)

He attempted to start a state-run media organization. 

Last year, Pence’s staff tried to launch a state-run news organization funded by taxpayer dollars. The outlet, dubbed “Just IN,” would have published material written by state communications officials.

The idea was widely ridiculed and drew comparisons to Pravda, the news outlet operated by Russia’s Communist Party. Critics said the outlet would allow Pence and other state officials to bypass traditional media outlets and simply publish news themselves, while Pence’s office tried to downplay the site, arguing that it would be similar to the government’s existing press release system.

After the immense backlash, Pence scrapped the new website altogether and sought to distance himself from the idea. 

“Reports that this was intended to be a news agency, I think just represent an understandable misunderstanding based on some internal communications that I read about in the press,” he said.

He can’t bring himself to say whether he believes in evolution.

It’s unclear if Pence believes in evolution, an ambiguity he himself has done nothing to clear up. While in Congress, he repeatedly sidestepped the question during a 2009 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

MATTHEWS: OK, you want to educate the American people about science and its relevance today. Do you believe in evolution, sir?

PENCE: Do I believe in evolution? I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that’s in them.

MATTHEWS: Right. But do you believe in evolution as the way he did it?

PENCE: The means, Chris, that he used to do that, I can’t say. But I do believe in that fundamental truth.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S.

 
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