The speakers set up on the tarmac of the Columbus Municipal Airport belted out the Hoosier State’s unofficial song — “Back Home Again in Indiana” — when Mike Pence landed there last week for the first time since he became a former vice president.
“I’ve already promised Karen we’ll be moving back to Indiana come this summer,” Pence told the assembled crowd in his hometown that’s a little less than an hour’s drive south of Indianapolis. “There’s no place like home.”
But careful Pence watchers couldn’t help but notice he never said where “home” will be.
“He doesn’t have a home, he doesn’t have anywhere to live,” one advisor to former President Donald Trump told Insider.
The Trump advisor is one of a dozen Republicans close with Pence’s inner circle who were vexed that a former vice president of the United States now has neither a home nor a job. Some even wondered if the Pences are now couch-surfing.
According to one source, the Pences are staying at the dolled-up cabin nearby that the Indiana governor uses as a retreat. If so, they’d need permission to spend the night from Pence’s former lieutenant governor, who now serves as governor, Eric Holcomb.
Two Republicans close to the Pences said they heard that the former second couple was staying at Pence’s brother’s place in Columbus.
The one thing everyone is certain of is that when the Pences moved out of the vice president’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, they had nowhere to go. The former second couple doesn’t actually own a house.
The Pences haven’t owned a home in a decade. Domicile hopping, in fact, has long been part of their lives as Pence charted a course from conservative talk radio host to vice president of the United States.
In 1987, after a trip to see the local Republican kingmaker in Indianapolis, Mike and Karen Pence sold their modest single-family home near Butler University so they could move farther south into Indiana’s then-Second Congressional District.
In 1999, after deciding to make his third and ultimately first successful run for Congress, the Pences moved again from Indianapolis. They bought a single family home about an hour’s drive south in Edinburgh, Indiana, inside the redrawn boundaries of the state’s Second District that he went on to represent.
After winning his 2000 race for Congress, the Pences lived in Washington for about a decade before returning fulltime to Indiana to run for governor. But instead of moving back to the Edinburgh home they had left a decade earlier, they rented in a ritzy enclave on the northeast side of Indianapolis.
Pence’s financial disclosures filed when he was a congressman, show that he wasn’t paying a mortgage from 2007 onward. However in 2008, Pence reported receiving rental income of at least $2,500 from a residence in Columbus, Indiana.
It’s not clear when exactly they sold their Edinburgh residence.
Pence’s vice presidential financial disclosure forms — he filed four of them since joining with Trump in July 2016 — do not show him owning any property, including a home in Edinburgh.
One Pence aide noted that the Pences would be splitting their time between Washington and Indiana for the next six months, before permanently moving back to Indiana. But the aide declined to say where exactly they would be staying.
A spokeswoman for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb did not respond to questions of whether Holcomb, who was Pence’s lieutenant governor, had to sign off on any stay by the Pences. Pence presided over $162,000 in renovations to the cabin six years ago, when he was governor.
Big decisions ahead
The Pences have many decisions to make now that they are out of the White House beyond just finding a place to live. They also need to find some work while they decide how and if to plot a course for a bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
Shortly after the election, the Pences were deciding which aides would stay on with them after he left office. The ex-vice president has also been eyeing a position at the helm of Christian Right colleges like either Hillsdale College in Michigan or the embattled Liberty University in Virginia.
Taking over as president of Liberty University would give Pence a nice paycheck (former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. earned more than $1 million a year). It would also give him a strong political perch with religious evangelicals as the Republican Party dives deeper into a civil war, two Republicans close to the Pences told Insider.
The Pences’ housing situation was more of a bit of Indiana political trivia for years. But it took on new prominence during the pandemic. As Pence and Trump fought to stop states from allowing mail-in voting as a safety measure to protect against the coronavirus, Trump and Pence both cast their ballots by mail.
Trump voted using his private South Florida club as a primary address. Pence voted listing the Indiana governor’s mansion as his residence, despite not having lived there in four years. Pence’s legal counsel at the time determined that voting under the auspices of the governor’s mansion was legal despite the political risk that it looked odd while he and Trump fought mail-in voting.
Safety a concern
Beyond basic financial concerns, Republicans who spoke with Insider also said they wondered whether Pence and his team are closely guarding their new domicile because of the wave of death threats he faced just three weeks ago.
The Trump-incited mob that stormed the Capitol earlier this month shouted that they wanted to hang Pence, and some of the people came within about 100 feet of confronting him and his family as they were hurried to a secure location in the Capitol. A pro-Trump lawyer also publicly threatened execution by firing squad for Pence unless the former vice president helped Trump toss out the election results.
As the Pences make a home outside Washington, they will keep their secret service protection for another six months.
“That would make sense,” one Indiana Republican said of safety concerns for the former vice president. “They wanted to hang him in the Capitol.”
Trump advisors told Insider that Trump’s relationship with Pence has been almost non-existent since Pence chose to side with the Constitution over Trump. And activists on the far right still blame Pence for not helping Trump overturn the election results.
Republicans close to the former vice president told Insider they’re not sure whether Pence has a future in the GOP considering large swaths of Republicans still support Trump and believe Democrats stole the 2020 election.
The beneficiary of public housing
Indiana Republicans have joked that Pence has been the beneficiary of public housing for eight years.
Pence earned a salary of almost $112,000 when he served as Indiana governor. He also got four years of free housing at the governor’s mansion (his predecessor, former Gov. Mitch Daniels, eschewed the free housing during his eight years in office.)
As vice president, Pence earned a salary of $230,700 a year. He also basked in the many accoutrements that come with the office from the US taxpayer-funded residence at the US Naval Observatory to world travel via Air Force Two.
While in office, Karen Pence and their oldest daughter Charlotte Pence Bond, made a cottage industry out of publishing a series of children’s books about their pet bunny through the conservative publishing house Regnery.
The Pences reported earning up to $50,000 on their first book, “Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President,” and donated the proceeds to art therapy and nonprofit fighting human sex trafficking, according to the New York Post.
The Pences did not disclose the advances they earned on each book, according to the former vice president’s 2020 financial disclosure.
Throughout special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, Pence incurred $500,000 in legal fees. Political donors paid the lawyers, USA Today reported last year.
Turning to Trump for charity
The Pences have also struggled to build a solid nest egg while paying for their three children’s student loans and suffering through financial hardships.
The vetting team that Trump assembled to review Pence four years ago even noted this: The Pences have never struck it rich, and even had some money troubles in the past.
Shortly before his first run for Congress, Pence’s best friend from college lost them about a million dollars in a bad investment. About two decades later, they lost about $700,000 when the family oil company, run by Pence’s oldest brother Greg Pence, went bankrupt. And when the Pences returned to Washington to join the Trump administration, they sought financial aid from Trump to pay for living expenses.
Shortly before the 2017 inauguration, Trump’s inaugural committee donated $750,000 to the charity fund which operates the vice president’s residence. A former Trump campaign advisor said the money was to cover living expenses for Mike and Karen Pence, but a Pence advisor said it went toward new furniture for the residence after the Bidens moved out with their furniture at the end of the Obama administration.
The Pences, after all, needed at least a bed to sleep in.