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Mike Pence (R) is the current sitting governor of Indiana and former member of Congress from Indiana. He has earned a reputation as a conservative politician who is enacting many policy reforms conservatives have long favored.
Formerly the head of a free-market think tank focused on Indiana policy, Pence is capable of understanding and communicating regarding policy details. His twelve years in Congress include leadership of the Republican House Study Committee, a group focused on advocating for smaller government and free markets, among other conservative positions.
As governor Pence has implemented an aggressive policy reform agenda that is largely consistent with his voting record in Congress. He cut taxes and expanded school choices programs in his state, but he has also expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, something many conservatives are likely to be unhappy about. Aside from this one departure from conservative views, however, Pence seems to be a reliable ally of the limited government movement.
Pence is not a household name, and he is not the only Republican governor pushing a conservative reform agenda. But he is respected by many around the country for his mostly consistent adherence to conservative principles and has built an admirable track record over fourteen years in public office, and he could become a serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2016.
Mike Pence was born in Columbus, Indiana and graduated from Hanover College in 1981.1 He worked at the college as an admissions counselor until 1983. He then attended Indiana University School of Law in 1986, earning his J.D. from the school.
From 1986 to 1990, Pence worked as an attorney in private practice and also ran unsuccessfully for Congress twice, in 1988 and 1990. In 1991 took on the role as president of the Indiana Policy Review, a conservative state-based think tank. He served as president of the organization until 1994 and then became a talk show host on Network Indiana from 1994 to 2000.2
In 2000 he ran for the congressional seat then held by David McIntosh, who opted to run for governor instead. Pence was elected, and held the seat through 2012 when he successfully ran for governor of Indiana. He was sworn in as governor in January, 2013.
Pence was raised as a Catholic but appears to be a member of a loosely affiliated denomination whose congregations go by the name of “Community Church.” “Community Church” is now known as newly-created community churches for Christians but is not affiliated with one specific denomination (such as Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.).3 He identifies himself as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic.”4
Pence and his wife Karen have been married for 26 years and they live in Columbus. They also rent a house in McCordsville, Indiana for professional reasons and lived in Arlington, Virginia during the legislative sessions while Pence was in Congress. They have three children – Michael, Charlotte and Audrey. Karen Pence is an elementary school art teacher serves as the honorary chairwoman of the Art Therapy Initiative at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. In addition to these responsibilities, Karen Pence formed the “Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation” in 2013. The purpose of the Foundation is, according to their website, “to encourage and support youth and families of Indiana. The beneficiaries include individuals, schools, communities, families and family support organizations, along with arts organizations.”5
As of the 2012 Congressional financial disclosure records, Pence had a net worth of $211,510.6
Governor Pence holds 100% ratings with the American Conservative Union and the Club for Growth.7 He also received the endorsements of the National Rifle Association, Campaign for Working Families, Can Do Conservatives, and the Victory Fund in the his 2012 bid for Governor of Indiana.8
His voting record was consistently conservative throughout his time as a Congressman, although his tenure as governor suggests a shift or compromise on the issue of Medicaid expansion. Like every other Republican in Congress Pence voted against Obamacare. Pence recently announced Indiana would participate in the voluntary expansion of Medicaid that is part of Obamacare. The deal Pence struck with the Obama administration to expand Medicaid includes some market-oriented elements, but most conservative and free-market health policy experts argue Pence is simply expanding a failed welfare program.
He has followed through on one of his main campaign pledges for governor, getting tax cuts pushed through the Indiana legislature.
Pence’s time in Congress was largely uneventful and without personal scandal. However, in 2013, the governor’s staff was found to be removing content from his Facebook page from followers who opposed him on certain issues. The Governor issued an apology and the users whose comments were deleted were unblocked from the page 9.
While a strong conservative and one who is generally well liked by those who know him, he does not have the same kind of national ID that other potential candidates do.
Governor Pence (and in his role as Congressman Pence) has received many awards from leading conservative organizations throughout his career. In 2005, he was named “Man of the Year” by the conservative publication, Human Events. He’s also received the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award” from the National Taxpayers Union, the “Taxpayer Super Hero” award from Citizens Against Government Waste, the “Friend of the Family” award by the Indiana Family Institute, and the “Distinguished Christian Statesmanship Award” by the Center for Christian Statesmanship.
He’s also been recognized by the Inland Press Association for his work in defense of free speech. As governor, Pence has not signed the American’s for Tax Reform “No New Taxes” pledge,10 but did so as a congressman.11 In 2007, the London Daily Telegraph named him one of the Top 20 Most Influential Conservatives in America.12 Pence is very clearly considered a leader in the conservative movement.
His signature achievement has been to push tax cuts through the Indiana legislature, although he was unable to persuade the legislature to cut them as much as he asked.
While in Congress, Pence led the House Republican Study Committee,13 an influential group of conservative House Republicans, and was elected by his peers to serve as the Republican Conference Chairman,14 all suggesting Pence has enjoyed the confidence of his peers in terms of his leadership skills.
He’s been described as having a “smooth but not overly polished delivery.”15 He spent six years as a talk radio host, providing him ample opportunity to hone his skills as an effective communicator. During the debate over Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, however, he appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and gave what was generally considered a poor defense of the law.16
Pence has shown himself to be very pro-taxpayer. Not only has he received awards from taxpayer organizations like the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste,17 but he has pursued an aggressive tax reform plan since taking office as governor in 2013. He campaigned for governor on a platform to reduce the state’s income tax. He proposed a 10 percent income tax rate cut for individuals but the Indiana legislature reduced that down to a 5 percent rate cut.18 He also continued to reduce the corporate tax rate in Indiana, phasing it down to 4.9 percent by 2021.19
As governor, he also signed a bill that allowed certain counties to implement a tax to fund mass transit although only if a voter referendum were passed.20
While in Congress, Congressman Pence voted in favor of repealing the tax on medical devices implemented under Obamacare.21 He voted against the “fiscal cliff” deal that raised taxes on high-income earners while keeping the Bush tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners.22
While in Congress, Pence consistently stood up for the rights of workers against coercive union tactics. He voted against a bill that would have eliminated the requirement of a vote in order for employees to unionize23 as well as to restrict the National Labor Relations Board.24
Pence also voted in favor of requiring federal regulatory agencies, including the EPA, to complete cost/benefit analyses of newly proposed regulations.25 He also supported a bill that prevented farm dust from being regulated,26 and as governor he praised the REINS Act he had voted in favor of as a congressman,27 which would require Congress to vote up-or-down on major new regulations.28 He voted against allowing the Federal Communications Commission to put “network neutrality” regulations in place.29
Indiana is seventh among states in coal production and gets 84% of its electricity from coal-fired plants.30 Congressman Pence consistently voted for policies to protect his state’s coal industry and electricity consumers. He voted against a bill to create a cap and trade program,31 and for bills that limited EPA authority over coal combustion residuals32and to prohibit the EPA from creating or enforcing rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions.33 He also signed the Americans for Prosperity pledge not to support any carbon tax.34
In a 2014 report produced by the DC-based CATO Institute, “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors,” Governor Pence of Indiana was one of only five governors to receive a grade of “A” as a result of his state’s taxing and spending restraint.38 He has also worked to privatize the highway system in Indiana.39
During his time in Congress, Pence maintained a generally good fiscal record, voting in favor of a balanced budget amendment,40 in favor of giving the president line-item veto authority,41 and against the $825 billion stimulus bill in 2009.42 He did, however, eventually vote for an additional $192 billion stimulus package in 200943 and voted to increase the debit ceiling in 2011 as part of the deal that included budget sequestration.44 When the budget cuts from the sequestration deal arrived in 2013, Pence urged Congress to find a more “responsible” mix of cuts, but did not call for the spending to be restored.45
In 2009, he denounced the Obama administration’s plan to use unspent TARP funding as economic stimulus, saying it would be a “violation of the law.”46
Pence supported allowing young people to put some of their Social Security dollars into private retirement accounts47 and to convert Medicare into a premium support program that would allow beneficiaries to choose from private insurance plans48 and also increase the eligibility age to 67.49
He voted against Obamacare50 and then for the repeal of Obamacare.51 He has also supported a couple of initiatives that many in free-market circles believe to be integral to reducing health care in the U.S.: he supported a bill that allowed small businesses to band together to purchase insurance52 and voted for a bill that would limit medical malpractice liability.53
More recently, Pence has opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. While the expansion utilizes many market-oriented features, including HSA-like accounts, the expansion has been heavily criticized by many free-market health policy experts.54 In his remarks announcing the Medicaid expansion, Pence reiterated his longstanding support for block-granting Medicaid and giving states more flexibility.55
Pence voted against creating the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit,56 and he voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, which many fear would lead to price controls on medicines.57
During the Bush Administration, Pence voted in favor of giving the president fast track authority to negotiate trade agreements58. He also voted in favor of trade agreements with Chile59, Singapore60, Oman61, Peru62, Korea63, Panama64, and Columbia65. And, he also supported CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement66.
During his time in Congress, Pence voted in support of a law allowing local authorities to enforce immigration law,67 for a bill that would require hospitals to report illegal immigrants seeking treatment,68 for a bill that would build an additional 700 miles of fence along the U.S./Mexico border,69 and against the DREAM Act,70 which would allow children of illegal immigrants who have been raised and educated in the United States to obtain temporary, legal status and eventually obtain full U.S. citizenship by going to college or joining the military, and also remove penalties to states who offer in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status.71 Since taking office as governor, he’s directed the Indiana attorney general to file a lawsuit against President Obama for his executive order granting illegal immigrants amnesty.72
In Congress, Pence was also a member of the House Agriculture Committee, not surprising for someone from an ag-intensive state like Indiana. In 2002 he voted in favor of a bill that increased farm subsidies73 but later in 2008 voted against extension of the policy stating it didn’t reform the subsidies to make farmers less reliant on government.74
In 2002, Pence voted in favor of a bill that increased farm subsidies75 but later, in 2008, voted against the extension of the bill stating it didn’t reform the subsidies to make farmers less reliant on government76.
Pence voted to re-authorize the Export-Import Bank in 2012, but was not among the governors in 2014 who wrote to Congress asking that it extend the bank’s charter.77
On financial industry issues, Pence has opposed bailouts and excessive regulations. He voted against the Dodd-Frank legislation,78 and also opposed the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP), better known as the Wall Street bailout, in 2008.79 He voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, which imposed new financial and accounting regulations on corporations, but later tried to pass legislation paring back some of the most burdensome and unnecessary provisions of the law.80 He has also called for the Federal Reserve to focus on fighting inflation and end its goal of promoting full employment.81
Governor Pence has an advantage over other sitting or former governors who have their sights set on a presidential run in 2016. During his time in Congress, Pence sat on the House Foreign Relations Committee82. Since assuming the governor’s office in 2013, Pence has made three trips overseas – first to Japan and more recently, Germany – including a stop at the Ramstein U.S. Air Force base83 as well as a more recent trip in December 2014 to Israel with his family84. Overseas trips like these are often part of a serious presidential contender’s agenda while preparing for a possible run.
For those who believe that a strong and well-funded U.S. military is key to their next candidate, Governor Pence is one who seems to rise to the top in this area. The Washington Post even noted that, “Pence more than other governors is well versed in national security matters from his decade in Congress including service on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.”85 As recently as 2011, then Congressman Pence voted against the reduction of Navy and Air Force appropriations86 .
Pence supported the Patriot Act87, the Iraq War88, the use of force in Afghanistan,89 and the efforts by President Obama to engage U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS in Syria.90 He has criticized President Obama’s unwillingness to recognize ISIS as Islamic extremism.91
Pence did not support the deployment of ground troops to Libya92.
Since assuming the governor’s office in 2013, Pence has made three trips overseas – first to Japan and more recently, Germany – including a stop at the Ramstein U.S. Air Force base93 as well as a more recent trip in December 2014 to Israel with his family94.
Pence has supported strong congressional support for Israel95 and criticized the Obama Administration for being to “conciliatory” with Russia, pointing to aggression against Ukraine as evidence of the failure of the Obama administration’s approach to Russia96. He has been an advocate of a missile defense system throughout all of Europe and criticized the Obama administration’s decision not to deploy systems in the Czech Republic and Poland.97
When describing the ideal GOP presidential candidate, Pence states the individual should have foreign affairs experience and “envisions a muscular role for the United States in the world98.”
During his time in Congress, Pence criticized President Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagen to the U.S. Supreme Court.99 As governor, Pence signed a bill reducing minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders.100
As congressman he voted against President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Act101.
Since taking the office of governor, Pence has ushered through a variety of major education reforms including the repeal of Common Core in the state,102 expanded school choice in Indiana,103 and established a funding formula change so schools with better student achievement will be rewarded (including the teachers).104 He also campaigned on creating a vocational curriculum for high schools in Indiana and has signed a bill that created a council to identify vocational opportunities for high school students.105
Pence also created the “Office of Federalism” that would measure the impact of federal mandates on Indiana and work with the Indiana Congressional delegation to reduce them.106
Pence supported legislation that prohibits the government from forcing reporters to reveal their sources.107
He recently signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in Indiana and defended it against withering national attacks, although he did also quickly sign additional legislation clarifying that it could not be used to defend against discrimination claims.108
Pernce’s wife’s charity, “Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation,” could raise eyebrows on the campaign trail. The organization was founded shortly after Pence was elected to office and it is very broad. As of January 20, 2015, neither Guidestar or the Foundation Center websites have records of the organization’s IRS form 990s. It would be easy for any opponent to question whether the organization is simply a political patronage vehicle for special interests to garner favor with the Governor.
In early 2015, Pence signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act bill similar to one passed at the federal level in 1993 and those of nearly 30 other states. The legislation became the focus of national attention because some feared it would legitimize discrimination, and Pence’s general handling of the issue was criticized by many, including those who agreed with him on the bill.109
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