Indiana governor Mike Pence has been chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate. Over the past 24 hours, lots of things in his past have been discussed. His blatant misogyny and anti-LGBT agenda have topped the list. But now we also know that he was such a thief that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was compelled to rewrite campaign finance rules.
In 1990, Pence was an up and coming lawyer in his early 30’s who was running for congress as a Republican in a red-leaning Indiana district against a Democratic incumbent. His main strategy to win against Rep. Philip R. Sharp was to paint him as tainted by donations from special-interest political action committees.
He should have been a shoe-in. But his campaign went up in flames when in was revealed that he had used political donations to pay the mortgage on his house, his personal credit card bill, groceries, golf tournament fees and car payments for his wife. Even though there wasn’t anything explicitly illegal about his actions at the time, voters were not impressed and Pence lost the election by a landslide.
It was a brazen act of hypocrisy,” said Billy Linville, who was Sharp’s campaign manager. “It was a bombshell, for sure. . . . Without question, he may well have won the election if it had not been for that.
The Washington Post reports: “According to FEC documents, Pence spent a total of $12,867 from his 1990 campaign account for personal expenses, including seven installments of his $992 monthly mortgage and his wife’s $222 a month car payment.”
Following his defeat, Pence said that his use of campaign funds for personal expenses had been “an exercise in naivete.” He argued that he had taken a 30 percent pay cut to run for office and needed the money to pay his bills. “I’m not embarrassed that I need to make a living,” he said.
Pence’s personal spending (and that of three other Republicans in 1990) prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to file a complaint with the FEC.
These were important cases,” recalled Lawrence Noble, who served as general counsel to the FEC at the time. “They showed that a real problem existed and caused the commission to deal directly” with regulating the use of campaign funds for personal use.
It was decided that Pence had broken no laws because, at the time, the rules only banned incumbents from using excess campaign funds for personal use, not challengers. However, the commissioners voted unanimously to rewrite the rules to ban the personal use of campaign funds by all candidates.
Trevor Potter, who joined the commission in 1991 and helped institute the new rules said this “was a landmark issue.”
How fitting that Trump chose such a shady character as his running-mate. Pence fits in perfectly with Trump, doesn’t he.
Ironically enough, in 1991, Pence published an open letter to state residents called “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner” in the Indiana Policy Review. In this letter, he stated that “negative campaigning is wrong” and laid out a list of principles he said should guide future campaigns. The first of these being that: “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” This right there tells us all we need to know, doesn’t it now?
Featured image via Win McNamee/Getty Images