Pence donors helped fund the vice president’s legal defense fund for the Mueller investigation

Vice President Mike Pence listens during a briefing in the White House Oval Office on May 28, 2020.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP | fake pictures

Many of Vice President Mike Pence’s former donors and allies in the business world helped back a legal fund aimed at helping the Indiana Republican defend himself during Russia’s investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The fund, established by his former chief of staff, Jim Atterholt, spent just under $ 480,000 in 2019 on legal advice for Pence, according to the vice president’s latest financial disclosure report.

The filing, first published Tuesday by the government’s watchdog group Citizens for Accountability and Ethics in Washington, shows that the fund was used for “legal expenses incurred by Michael R. Pence (the sole beneficiary) in relation to with the 2016 presidential election and related matters. ” The document notes that Pence himself did not request any of the contributions.

USA Today reported last year that Pence’s allies were using the fund to help pay the vice president’s legal fees during Mueller’s investigation into whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election. Last year’s report did not say who had delivered the organization. Pence, at the time, had retained Richard Cullen, a partner at McGuireWoods.

However, the new filing reveals for the first time who funded the defense operation. People who donated to the fund have a history of supporting political groups linked to Pence himself.

Atterholt, who organized the effort, said he created the fund because he did not believe Pence had the financial means to pay his legal fees.

“I think the vice president is a worthy and honorable person, but he is not someone from big financial means. I started the trust because I think important legal bills shouldn’t be the cost of public service,” Atterholt said in an email to CNBC. .

A Pence spokeswoman declined to comment, and Cullen deferred any questions about his work to the vice president’s office.

One of the donors listed on the form is Martin Obst, Pence’s longtime political adviser, who donated $ 20,000.

Herbert Simon, co-founder of shopping center developer Simon Property Group, is also among the donors. He also owns the NBA Indiana Pacers basketball team. Simon donated $ 100,000 to the fund and contributed at least $ 15,000 to Pence’s successful Indiana government campaign in 2012, according to data from the National Institute of Money in Politics. Simon, who also has a history of giving to Democrats, previously contributed to the congressional campaign for Pence’s brother, Greg Pence, according to the Nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Ronald Weiser, a $ 50,000 supporter of the Pence defense fund, is the founder of Michigan-based firm McKinley Inc. Two years before donating to the fund, Weiser donated $ 200,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC.

Michael Hayde and Laura Khouri, executives at the investment firm Western National Group, combined to give $ 200,000 to the defense fund. They have previously given millions to Republican causes in the 2020 election cycle, according to the Orange County Register. Hayde gave the Trump reelection campaign $ 2,800 last year, the most an individual can give directly to a campaign.

All donors mentioned in this story did not respond to a request for comment.


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