Pence Used Private Email for Public Business as Governor

  • Hackers compromised an AOL account used by Pence last year
  • Outside law firm assisting vice president in archival effort

Mike Pence.

Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence regularly used personal email to conduct public business while serving as governor of Indiana, his office acknowledged in a statement Friday.

"Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account," Marc Lotter, the vice president’s press secretary, said in an email.

The private email account was first reported by the Indianapolis Star, which also reported that the AOL account was compromised last year by hackers. The paper cited emails obtained through a public-records request. Pence used that account to discuss matters ranging from security at his residence to how the state was responding to terror incidents around the world.

Pence directed an outside law firm to review all of his communications and ensure any emails related to his work as governor were transferred to and archived by the state, Lotter said. That process is ongoing.

"Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act," he said.

AOL Account

Twenty-nine pages of emails from Pence’s AOL account were released to the Star by the office of the current governor, Republican Eric Holcomb. The newspaper said that Holcomb’s office declined to release an unspecified number of additional emails because they were considered by the state to be confidential.

During the presidential race, as Donald Trump’s running mate on the Republican ticket, Pence criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of personal email to do official business while secretary of state. Her email practices emerged as an issue that weighed on her candidacy in the 2016 campaign.

A White House spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, disputed any comparison between Pence’s use of an AOL account and Clinton’s practices. Pence wasn’t a federal employee and wasn’t handling classified information, Sanders told reporters on board Air Force One. He turned over his emails to be archived and otherwise followed Indiana law, she said.

"That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison," Sanders said.

‘Public Domain’

Clinton’s handling of emails should “disqualify her from serving as president,” Pence said in a September interview on NBC’s Meet the Press. “She either knew or should’ve known that she was placing classified information in a way that exposed it to being hacked and being made available in the public domain, even to enemies of this country.”

The revelations about Pence’s private email use drew indignation from former Clinton aides.

"I look forward to the righteous indignation, wild claims, and multiple investigations into this," former Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill tweeted.

In a statement to the Star, Lotter rejected comparisons to Clinton as "absurd" and said the former governor’s communications never touched on federally classified information.

Pence’s personal AOL account was compromised in June by a hacker who sent a bogus email to the governor’s contacts, saying that Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and urgently needed money, according to the Star. Pence alerted those who might have received the fake message and opened a new account, the newspaper reported.

Indiana law doesn’t bar public officials from using personal email accounts, according to the Star. However, the law is generally interpreted to mean that official business conducted over private email must be retained for public record purposes.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE