In Ind., Pence fought records requests
Vice president used own AOL account for state business.
Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly stonewalled media requests to view public records when he was Indiana’s governor, including emails about state business distributed from a private AOL account that was hacked last year.
Revelations Pence used the account to discuss homeland security and other official matters, first reported Thursday by the Indianapolis Star, are just the latest in a series of transparency battles involving the Republican’s tenure as governor.
The Star obtained the AOL emails through an open records request after new Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb agreed to release 29 pages from his predecessor’s AOL account.
Earlier this year, lawyers for Pence argued unsuccessfully in a civil case that Indiana courts had no authority to force him to comply with public records law. His administration also has repeatedly delayed or denied the release of records that could shed light on his tenure as governor.
The hacking of Pence’s private emails brought accusations of hypocrisy for some of his attacks against Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. He argued Clinton’s use of a private server when she was secretary of state could have jeopardized national security if the emails ended up in the wrong hands.
“There’s no comparison whatsoever between Hillary Clinton’s practice of having a private server, mishandling classified information, destroying emails when they were requested by the Congress and by officials,” Pence said Friday. “We have fully complied with all of Indiana’s laws. We had outside counsel review all of my private email records to identify any emails that ever referenced or mentioned state business-related activities. As Indiana laws required, we transferred all of those to the state of Indiana subject to the public access laws.”
Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, have used their private accounts — email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org — to conduct official business dating back to at least 2013.
Richard Painter, former President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, said even if Pence wasn’t handling state secrets like Clinton, his use of an AOL account still jeopardizes national security because hacked information could be used as leverage.
“The Russians aren’t Democrats or Republicans,” Painter said. “They would love to find anything they can get on Pence or (President Donald) Trump.”
Pence’s AOL account was subjected to a phishing scheme last spring, before Trump chose him to join the GOP presidential ticket. The governor moved to a different AOL account with additional security measures, but has since stopped using the new personal account since he was sworn in as vice president.
Public officials are not barred from using personal email accounts under Indiana law, but the law is interpreted to mean that any official business conducted on private email must be retained to comply with public record laws.
VIce President Mike Pence has used account for years.