Something Sam Smith
of the Progressive Review
linked to this weekend, a 2017 New Yorker
article on how dangerous Mike Pence would be as president (The Danger of President Pence
), because it's making the rounds on Facebook again.
.....Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs in the Trump White House, credits Pence for the Kochs’ rapprochement with Trump. “The Kochs were very excited about the Vice-Presidential pick,” Short told me. “There are areas where they differ from the Administration, but now there are many areas they’re partnering with us on.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”
....This summer, I visited Pence’s home town of Columbus, Indiana. Harry McCawley, a retired editor at the Republic
, the local newspaper, told me, “Mike Pence wanted to be President practically since he popped out of the womb.” Pence exudes a low-key humility, but, McCawley told me, “he’s very ambitious, even calculating, about the steps he’ll take toward that goal.”
McCawley, who died, of cancer, in September, knew the Pence family well, in part because the Vice-President’s mother, Nancy Pence Fritsch, wrote a chatty column for the newspaper for several years (“memories blossom with arrival of spring”). Eighty-four and energetic, Fritsch met me for coffee this summer, along with her eldest son, Gregory, who is in the antiques business in the Columbus area. Like the Vice-President, they are good-looking, with chiselled features, and have an unpretentious, amiable manner. They ribbed each other as they reminisced about the years when the Pences’ six children lived with their parents in a series of modest houses. There was so little to do in the way of entertainment, Gregory Pence recalled, that “we sometimes got in the car with our parents on Friday nights and followed after the fire truck.” All the boys had nicknames. “My name was General Harassment,” Gregory said. “Michael’s was Bubbles, because he was chubby and funny.”
“Michael’s hilarious,” his mother agreed. “I attribute it to the Irish. We’re faith-filled, and have a good sense of humor.” The family identifies as Catholic, and Mike was an altar boy. “Religion is the most important thing in our lives,” she said. “But we don’t take it seriously. I don’t proselytize.”
Pence’s maternal grandfather was from Ireland, but his paternal grandfather, Edward Joseph Pence, Sr., came from a German family. Brief mentions of Edward in the press have described him as having worked in the Chicago stockyards, leaving the impression that he was poor. But Gregory told me that Edward was well off, with a seat on the Chicago Stock Exchange. “Grandfather Pence was a very hard man,” Gregory said. Edward refused to provide financial support when Gregory and Mike’s father, Edward, Jr., went to college; an aunt loaned him the tuition, but he had to leave law school when he ran out of money. “Grampa Pence was a gambler!” Fritsch chimed in. “He played cards and went to Las Vegas.”
Fritsch went to secretarial school. With a laugh, she recalled that she met her first husband “in a club—in other words, a tavern.” A Korean War veteran, Edward Pence, Jr., was in uniform that night. (He had won a Bronze Star, which the Vice-President keeps in his office.) In 1959, after leaving law school, he moved with Fritsch from Chicago to Columbus, where he sold fuel to gas stations, farms, and convenience stores. Shortly after their arrival, Michael Pence, the couple’s third child, was born.
Fritsch said of life in Indiana, “I hated it. I always looked forward to going back to Chicago.” But the family stayed, gradually moving into the upper middle class—Edward became part owner of an oil distributorship—and switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Fritsch had worshipped the Kennedys, but, she said, “I guess I became a Republican because my husband was one. I was a Stepford wife.”
“She was like the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz
, ” Gregory said at one point.
“You see what I have to put up with?” she shot back. Growing more serious, she explained that, until she went back to school, at sixty-five, to get a college degree in psychology, she “didn’t have much self-esteem.”
“That’s when she got her brain,” Gregory said.
Edward, Jr., like his father, was a tough disciplinarian. Gregory recalled, “If you lied to him, you’d be taken upstairs, have a conversation, and then he’d whack you with a belt.” He expected his children to stand up whenever an adult entered the room. “He’d grab you if you didn’t,” Gregory said. At dinner, the kids were forbidden to speak.
While Gregory was in college, he was sleeping late on a visit home when his father pulled the covers off him and told him to get up for church. “I said he couldn’t tell me what to do anymore, because he was only paying half my college tuition,” Gregory said. His father stopped paying his tuition altogether. “He was black and white,” Gregory said. “You were never confused where you stood. My brother’s a lot like him.”
Columbus, which has a population of forty-five thousand, was dominated by a major engine manufacturer, Cummins, and escaped the economic woes that afflicted many other parts of the region. But McCawley, the newspaper editor, told me that, while Pence was growing up, Columbus, “like many Indiana communities, still had vestiges of the Ku Klux Klan.” The group had ruled the state’s government in the twenties, and then gone underground. In Columbus, landlords refused to rent or sell homes to African-Americans until Cummins’s owners demanded that they do so. Gregory Pence insisted that the town “was not racist,” but contended that there had been anti-Catholic prejudice. Protestant kids had thrown stones at him, he recalled. “We were discriminated against,” Pence’s mother added.
The Pence children attended St. Columba Catholic School through eighth grade. Mike discovered a talent for public speaking that made him a favorite with the nuns. In fifth grade, he won a local oratory contest, defeating kids several years older. “When it came his turn, his voice just boomed out over the audience,” his mother told the newspaper. “He just blew everybody away.” In high school, Pence won third place in a national contest. When his mother recalled Mike as “a good student,” Gregory said, “Not a fabulous one. I don’t think he stood out. He was class president, but that wasn’t cool.” Nonetheless, by senior year, Mike was talking to classmates about becoming President of the United States.
Mike Pence attended Hanover College, a liberal-arts school in southeast Indiana. On a visit home, he told his father that he was thinking of either joining the priesthood or attending law school. His father suggested he start with law; he could always join the priesthood later. Shortly thereafter, to his family’s surprise, Pence became an evangelical Christian. His mother said that “college gave him a different viewpoint.” The story Pence tells is that he was in a fraternity, and when he admired another member’s gold cross he was told, “You have to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” Soon afterward, Pence has said, he attended a Christian music festival in Kentucky and “gave my life to Jesus.”
His conversion was part of a larger movement. In 1979, during Pence’s junior year in college, Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, to mobilize Christian voters as a political force. Pence voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980, but he soon joined the march of many Christians toward the Republican Party. The Moral Majority’s co-founder, Paul Weyrich, a Midwestern Catholic, established numerous institutions of the conservative movement, including the Heritage Foundation and the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of far-right congressional members, which Pence eventually led. Weyrich condemned homosexuality, feminism, abortion, and government-imposed racial integration, and he partnered with some controversial figures, including Laszlo Pasztor, a former member of a pro-Nazi party in Hungary. [It was the Arrow Cross, the most rabidly anti-Semitic party in wartime Hungary - S.] When Weyrich died, in 2008, Pence praised him as a “friend and mentor” and a “founding father of the modern conservative movement,” from whom he had “benefitted immeasurably.”
While in law school, at Indiana University, Pence met and married Karen Batten, a schoolteacher whom he had noticed playing guitar in a church service. A friend at the time, Dan LeClerc, told me, “He was head over heels.” Pence took her ice-skating; she made him taco salad for dinner. Soon, anticipating a proposal, she began carrying in her purse a gold cross with the inscription “Yes.” Eight months after they began dating, he asked her to marry him, having buried a ring box in a loaf of bread that he’d brought on a walk, ostensibly to feed ducks. They shellacked the loaf. Pence’s friends have called Karen his “prayer warrior.”
The couple became almost inseparable. One Christmas, she gave him an antique red phone, connected to a “hotline” whose number only she knew. As the Washington Post reported, he kept it on his office desk long after the advent of cell phones. At home, they worked out on twin treadmills. And, as Rolling Stone reported in January, he referred to her in front of guests as “Mother.” Pence’s office has disputed the account, but a former Indiana Democratic Party official told me, “I’ve heard him call her Mother myself.” Pence also began observing what’s known as the Billy Graham rule, meaning that he never dined alone with another woman, or attended an event in mixed company where alcohol was served unless his wife was present. Critics have argued that this approach reduces women to sexual temptresses and precludes men from working with women on an equal basis. A Trump campaign official said that he found the Pences’ dynamic “a little creepy.” But Kellyanne Conway defended him vigorously, telling me, “I’ve been a female top adviser of his for years, and never felt excluded or dismissed.” She went on, “Most wives would appreciate a loyal husband who puts them first. People are trying to bloody and muddy him, but talk about narrow-minded—to judge his marriage!”
In 1987, a year after Pence graduated from law school, LeClerc, his old friend, was asked by a mutual acquaintance, “Guess who’s running for Congress?” He drew a blank. Pence’s decision, at the age of twenty-nine, to challenge a popular incumbent Democratic congressman surprised many people, including his father, Edward, who thought that it was silly, given that Mike was a young newlywed with no steady job. But after Mike entered the race Edward became his biggest booster, helping him raise money and put up lawn signs. Then, just a few weeks before the Republican primary, Edward, who was fifty-eight, had a heart attack and died. Mike won the primary, but the Democratic incumbent, Phil Sharp, was reëlected.
In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries. It wasn’t technically illegal, but it violated the trust of his supporters and sullied his pious image. “Mike burned a lot of bridges,” Gregory recalled. “He upset a lot of his backers. It was partly because of immaturity, but he really was kind of full of shit.”
The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.” Sharp, who after two more terms joined the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is now semi-retired, remains unimpressed by Pence. “This is not a person, in my limited exposure, about whom I’d ever say, ‘Wow, he should be President!’ ”
Pence took a job at a law firm in Indianapolis, where he handled mainly small-claims and family cases, and started each day by praying with colleagues. An Indiana attorney recalled, “He was a big, jocular, friendly guy who would put his arm around you at the local pub. He probably weighed a hundred pounds more than today.” There was a clear hierarchy in the Indianapolis legal world, and Pence was far from its top rungs, relying on referrals for work. “There were dozens of guys like that,” the lawyer said. “But the great American story is that a guy like Mike Pence is now Vice-President.”
Gregory said of his brother, “Law wasn’t really his thing,” adding, “He’s completely unmotivated by money. I don’t think he would think for one second about it, if it weren’t for Karen.”
“Service is his motivation,” Pence’s mother said.
“And, of course, popularity,” his brother added. “He had ambitions.”
Pence was thrown a lifeline in 1991, when he was offered a job as president of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a tiny new think tank that promoted free-market policies. Pence joked that some people called the foundation “an old-folks home for unsuccessful candidates,” but it gave him a steady paycheck and valuable exposure to the burgeoning universe of business-funded conservative nonprofit groups. The foundation was part of the State Policy Network, a national web of organizations that had been launched at Ronald Reagan’s suggestion. It was designed to replicate at a more local level the Heritage Foundation’s successful promotion of conservative policies. One of the State Policy Network’s founders, Thomas Roe, a construction magnate with strong anti-union views, was said to have told a Heritage board member, “You capture the Soviet Union—I’m going to capture the states.”
In a 2008 speech, Pence described himself as “part of what we called the seed corn Heritage Foundation was spreading around the country in the state think-tank movement.” It isn’t fully clear whose money was behind the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, because think tanks, as nonprofits, don’t have to disclose their donors. But the early funders of the Heritage Foundation included some Fortune 500 companies, in fields such as oil, chemicals, and tobacco, that opposed health, safety, and environmental regulations.
Cecil Bohanon, one of two adjunct scholars at Pence’s think tank, had a history of financial ties to tobacco-company front groups, and in 2000 Pence echoed industry talking points in an essay that argued, “Smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, two out of every three smokers doesn’t die from a smoking-related illness.” A greater “scourge” than cigarettes, he argued, was “big government disguised as do-gooder, healthcare rhetoric.” Bohanon, who still writes for the think tank’s publication, also has ties to the Kochs. Last year, John Hardin, the head of university relations for the Charles Koch Foundation, told an Indiana newspaper that the Kochs had been funding Bohanon’s work as a professor of free-market economics at Ball State University “for years.”
Even as Pence argued for less government interference in business, he pushed for policies that intruded on people’s private lives. In the early nineties, he joined the board of the Indiana Family Institute, a far-right group that supported the criminalization of abortion and campaigned against equal rights for homosexuals. And, while Pence ran the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, it published an essay arguing that unmarried women should be denied access to birth control. “What these people are really after is contraceptives,” Vi Simpson, the former Democratic minority leader of the Indiana State Senate, told me. In 2012, after serving twenty-eight years in the legislature, she ran for lieutenant governor on a ticket with the gubernatorial candidate John R. Gregg, who lost the election to Pence. Simpson believes that Pence wants to reverse women’s economic and political advances. “He’s on a mission,” she said.
Pence’s true gift was not as a thinker but as a talker. In 1992, he became a host on conservative talk radio, which had been booming since the F.C.C., in 1987, repealed the Fairness Doctrine and stopped requiring broadcasters to provide all sides of controversial issues. At a time when bombastic, angry voices proliferated, Pence was different. Like Reagan, who had become his political hero, he could present even extreme positions in genial, nonthreatening terms. “I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad about it,” he liked to say. He welcomed guests of all political stripes, and called himself “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.”
“His radio career gave him great statewide name recognition,” Jeff Smulyan, the C.E.O. of Emmis Communications, on whose radio stations Pence’s program aired, said. “He’s likable, and a great self-promoter.” Smulyan, a Democrat, added, “I’m not sure how he’d fare in a detailed policy debate, but Mike knows what Mike believes.” In 1994, Pence was on eighteen Emmis stations, five days a week. By then, he’d lost weight and had three children; he’d also amassed a Rolodex full of conservative connections and established a national network of wealthy funders. In 2000, when a Republican congressman in northern Indiana vacated his seat, Pence ran as the Party favorite, on a platform that included a promise to oppose “any effort to recognize homosexuals as a discrete and insular minority entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He won, by a twelve-point margin.
Once Pence got to Washington, Conway said, his background “in the think-tank-slash-media axis really equipped him to defend and explain an argument in a full-throated way.” Pence was in demand on the conservative speaking circuit, and frequently appeared on Sunday talk shows. “He was invited to Heritage, gun owners’ groups, property-rights groups, pro-life groups, and pro-Israel groups,” Conway recalled. “People started to see an authentic, affable conservative who was not in a bad mood about it.” Michael Leppert, a Democratic lobbyist in Indiana, saw Pence differently. “His politics were always way outside the mainstream,” Leppert said. “He just does it with a smile on his face instead of a snarl.”
Pence served twelve years in Congress, but never authored a single successful bill. His sights, according to Leppert, were always “on the national ticket.” He gained attention by challenging his own party’s leaders, both in Congress and in the George W. Bush Administration, from the right. He broke with the vast majority of his Republican peers by opposing Bush’s expansion of Medicaid coverage for prescription drugs, along with the No Child Left Behind initiative and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the government’s emergency bailout of banks. Conway calls him “a rebel with a cause.” In 2004, the House’s most conservative members elected him to head their caucus, the Republican Study Committee. Pence joked that the group was so alien to the Party’s mainstream that running it was like leading a Star Trek
convention. “He was as far right as you could go without falling off the earth,” Mike Lofgren, a former Republican congressional staff member, who has become a Trump critic, told me. “But he never really put a foot wrong politically. Beneath the Bible-thumping earnestness was a calculating and ambitious pol.”
In 2006, Pence boldly challenged the House Minority Leader at the time, John Boehner, a more centrist Republican from Ohio, for his post. Pence got wiped out, but in 2008 Boehner—perhaps trying to contain Pence’s ambition—asked him to serve as the Republican Conference chair, the Party’s third-highest-ranking post in the House. The chair presides over weekly meetings in which Republican House members discuss policy and legislative goals. Pence used the platform to set the Party’s message on a rightward course, raise money, and raise his profile.
After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)
Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise. A key link to these groups was provided by Marc Short, the current White House official, who in 2008 became Pence’s chief of staff at the Republican Conference. Short had grown up in moneyed conservative circles in Virginia, where his father had helped finance the growth of the Republican Party, and he had run a group for conservative students, Young America’s Foundation, and spent several years as a Republican Senate aide before joining Pence’s staff. His wife, as it happened, worked for the Charles Koch Foundation, and he admired the brothers’ anti-government ideology. A former White House colleague described Short to me as “a pod person” who “really delivered Pence to the Kochs.”
In June, 2009, Short brokered Pence’s first invitation to address a Koch “seminar,” as the brothers call their secretive semi-annual fund-raising sessions for top conservative donors. The theme of the gathering, in Aspen, Colorado, was “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity.” Pence’s speech was a hit. Short told me, “I’ve never seen someone who can take a complex subject and distill it in a heartbeat like he can.” He’d also never seen “anyone who is as dedicated a public servant, and lives their faith as Mike does.” Short, who is a devout Christian, said, “People often profess faith that’s not lived out, but with him it’s lived out each and every day. It guides him. It’s his core.”
The Kochs, who are not religious, may have been focussed more on pocketbook issues than on Pence’s faith. According to Scott Peterson, the executive director of the Checks & Balances Project, a watchdog group that monitors attempts to influence environmental policy, Pence was invited to the Koch seminar only after he did the brothers a major political favor. By the spring of 2009, Koch Industries, like other fossil-fuel companies, felt threatened by growing support in Congress for curbing carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change. Americans for Prosperity devised a “No Climate Tax” pledge for candidates to sign, promising not to spend any government funds on limiting carbon pollution. At first, the campaign languished, attracting only fourteen signatures. The House, meanwhile, was moving toward passage of a “cap and trade” bill, which would charge companies for carbon pollution. If the bill were enacted, the costs could be catastrophic to Koch Industries, which releases some twenty-four million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a year, and owns millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in Canada, plus coal-fired power plants and oil refineries.
Pence, who had called global warming “a myth” created by environmentalists in their “latest Chicken Little attempt to raise taxes,” took up the Kochs’ cause. He not only signed their pledge but urged others to do so as well. He gave speeches denouncing the cap-and-trade bill—which passed the House but got held up in the Senate—as a “declaration of war on the Midwest.” His language echoed that of the Koch groups. Americans for Prosperity called the bill “the largest excise tax in history,” and Pence called it “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Neither statement was true.) He used a map created by the Heritage Foundation, which the Kochs supported, to make his case, and he urged House Republicans to hold “energy summits” opposing the legislation in their districts, sending them home over the summer recess with kits to bolster their presentations.
According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, after Pence began promoting the Kochs’ pledge the number of signatories in the House soared, reaching a hundred and fifty-six. James Valvo, the policy director for Americans for Prosperity, who spearheaded the pledge, told the Reporting Workshop that support from Pence and other Republicans helped “a scrappy outlier” become “the established position.” The cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate.
Short said that he “didn’t recall the Kochs ever asking for help on the issue,” adding, “The Republican Conference believed it was a winning issue because of the impact that the bill would have had on jobs.” In any event, the pledge marked a pivotal turn in the climate-change debate, cementing Republican opposition to addressing the environmental crisis.
Peterson said that the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”
Indeed, by 2011 Pence had reportedly become Charles Koch’s favorite potential candidate for President in 2012. Andrew Downs, a political scientist who directs the nonpartisan Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, in Fort Wayne, said, “People thought Pence was gearing up for a Presidential run.” Downs pointed out that when Pence was in Congress “he probably had a shot at becoming Speaker of the House.” Downs continued, “Instead, he spoke at a lot of engagements with a national focus, and visited places like Iowa and New Hampshire. Running for President isn’t an idea that just occurred to Mike Pence when he joined the ticket in 2016. It goes back a long way.”
But the House of Representatives is a tough platform from which to get elected President. And so, in 2012, after mulling over his national prospects, Pence ran instead for governor of Indiana. “The conventional wisdom is that he ran for governor so he could check that box, get some executive experience, and then run for President,” Downs said. Pence won the governor’s race, but with only forty-nine per cent of the vote. “He was scary to the center,” Bill Oesterle, a co-founder of Angie’s List, an Indiana company that collates user reviews of local contractors, said. Oesterle, a Republican, contributed a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to Pence’s campaign. David Koch contributed two hundred thousand dollars.
Pence’s commitment to the Kochs was now ironclad. Short, his former chief of staff, had become a top operative for the Kochs, earning upward of a million dollars a year as president of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the brothers’ Virginia-based membership group for big conservative donors. It served as a dark-money bank, enabling donors to stay anonymous while distributing funds to favored campaigns and political organizations. (During the past decade, the group has pooled an estimated billion and a half dollars in contributions.) The Kochs’ national political network, which had offices in nearly every state, became the most powerful and best-financed private political machine in the country. At least four other former Pence staffers followed Short’s lead and joined the Koch network, including Emily Seidel, who joined Freedom Partners, and Matt Lloyd, who became a Koch Industries spokesman. In 2014, a Republican strategist told Politico that “the whole Koch operation” had become “the shadow headquarters of Pence for President.”
Pence’s tenure as governor nearly destroyed his political career. He had promised Oesterle and other members of the state’s Republican business establishment that he would continue in the path of his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, a well-liked fiscal conservative who had called for a “truce” on divisive social issues. “Pence was very accommodating,” Oesterle said. But after he was elected he began taking controversial far-right stands that, critics believed, were geared more toward building his national profile than toward serving Indiana voters.
At first, Pence highlighted fiscal conservatism. In 2013, he proposed cutting the state income tax. An internal report by Americans for Prosperity described the proposal as an example of the Kochs’ “model states” program “in action.” Indiana Republicans, who had majorities in both legislative chambers, initially balked at the tax cut, deeming it irresponsible. But Americans for Prosperity acted as a force multiplier for Pence, much as it is now promising to do for Trump’s proposed federal tax cuts. The group mounted an expensive campaign that included fifty rallies, two six-figure television-ad blitzes, and phone-bank calls and door-to-door advocacy in fifty-three of Indiana’s ninety-two counties. Eventually, the legislature went along with what Pence often describes as “the largest income-tax cut in the state’s history,” even though Indiana already had one of the lowest income taxes in the country, and had cut it only once before. Trump has recently described Pence’s record as a template for the White House’s tax plan, saying, “Indiana is a tremendous example of the prosperity that is unleashed when we cut taxes.” But, in the view of Andrew Downs, the Indiana political scientist, “the tax cuts were fairly meaningless.” Residents earning fifty thousand dollars a year received a tax cut of about $3.50 per month. Pence claimed that the cut stimulated the economy, but John Zody, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, told me, “Our per-capita income is thirty-eighth in the nation, and not climbing.” The state recently had to increase its gas tax by ten cents per gallon, to repair its crumbling infrastructure.....
- Jane Mayer, "The Danger of President Pence", October 23, 2017
Strelnikov's take: Pence is that sort of guy you see in the GOP - authoritarian childhood, went to law school, is on the make despite his religious background. He is a Trojan horse for the Kochs (actually it's all down to Charles, because David quit his Koch company job for medical reasons.) He was a non-entity in Congress for a decade and a bad governor of Indiana who tried to sell off the state-owned cellphone tower system just because "privatization!" and was only in there to promote Religious Right shibboleths like limiting abortion, fighting gay rights, and signing stupid trash like the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act", which allowed business owners to say that they would not serve gay people "due to religious principle." Much of what he did was reversed or repealed after he left office. If you live in America, the bumpy ride will get bumpier if he replaces our first Dorito-American president.