While President Donald Trump’s White House grapples with the fallout from his firing of the former FBI director, Vice President Mike Pence has taken steps to begin building his own political war chest.
Pence launched Great America Committee, a leadership PAC, a move that will enable him to channel money to congressional Republicans ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The political action committee’s registration was posted Wednesday on the Federal Election Commission website.
“The Vice President is playing a leading role in passing legislation on the Hill,” said Nick Ayers, a senior adviser to Pence in the 2016 campaign who will be running the PAC. “He wants to support House and Senate members who are helping pass the president’s agenda.”
It’s unusual for vice presidents to set up their own fundraising vehicles. Neither Joseph Biden nor Dick Cheney, the two vice presidents who preceded Pence, had one while in office. It’s not entirely unprecedented, though: George H.W. Bush formed the Fund for America’s Future when he was preparing for his 1988 presidential run.
“Launching a leadership PAC sometimes signals an intent to run for higher office, which in Pence’s case, has been a topic of public interest ever since he was first nominated,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsible Politics, which studies money in politics.
The move comes as President Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises — such as overhauling the U.S. tax code and replacing the Affordable Care Act — face stronger headwinds following reports that he asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that his agenda will stall as a result of the controversy.
Planning for the PAC began in December, Ayers said. The group will manage the database of donors and supporters that Pence compiled over his six terms in Congress and as Indiana governor. It will also pay expenses for Pence’s political activities, reducing the burden on Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee. The PAC can raise up to $5,000 per year from individual donors and other federal PACs, according to election law.
Marc Lotter, Pence’s spokesman, declined to comment on the PAC because federal rules bar him from discussing political activities.
Vice presidents typically headline events for their party committees, raising money in amounts up to $339,000. Most of that money, however, can’t be contributed directly to candidates or used on their behalf. Leadership PACs of the kind Pence has formed can use all the money they raise to support candidates.
In the 2016 election cycle, Republican leadership PACs donated $30.1 million to congressional candidates. The top fundraiser was House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Prosperity PAC, which brought in $4.2 million that cycle.
“The general theory on having a leadership PACs is that it’s good to have friends and even better to have friends that owe you favors, because you never know when you’ll have to call them in,” said Krumholz.