Reporter: Trump’s VP pick Mike Pence is ‘least transparent executive I have ever covered’

Gage Skidmore


Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick, was criticized for his low accessibility to media in the latest State Integrity Investigation by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

The State Integrity Investigation (which, full disclosure, I worked on in 2011 and 2015), grades each state for its risk for corruption. Under Pence, Indiana earned a D-.

In a specific category for executive branch accountability, Indiana also earned a grade of D-, making it 25th in the nation.

Pence drew poor marks on holding media availabilities and explaining his public policy proposals.

This comes in response to the investigation’s statement, “In practice, the governor gives reasons for his/her policy positions”:

Gov. Mike Pence, who took office in January 2013, does not hold regular press conferences with the media, except for a few before, during and after the state legislative sessions and occasionally during the year when he is announcing a new initiative or program. If reporters want comments from him or an interview, they report that they have to go through his press secretary, who often replies with short, unelaborated answers or sometimes not at all.

Tom LoBianco, political reporter for The Indianapolis Star and for the AP in Indianapolis and Maryland who has covered four governors, said that Pence “is by far the worst in terms of explaining why he did something or why he plans to do something. On the whole, Pence is the least transparent executive I have ever covered,” said LoBianco. When asked direct questions, Pence will often say, “I don’t know. We’ll get an answer for you,” but his office typically doesn’t follow up with an answer, he added.

LoBianco further said in the report that Pence has had trouble saying exactly what ideas he is proposing during legislative sessions.

More form the report:

For example, early in the 2015 session, LoBianco said Pence consistently said he will push for “tax simplification” legislation, but even after the deadline to file bills had passed, he had not explained his proposal or proposed legislation. Sometimes, bills the governor supports pop up halfway through the session, but they don’t officially become his bills until signs them after the session.

“He’s the first one I’ve covered who waits to put his name on his own priorities until it’s politically safe,” said LoBianco. In one instance, the media, Democrats and even some of his political supporters did not understand his reasoning and explanation for not applying for a federal education grant that could have brought up to $80 million more to Indiana on preschool programs for low-income youth.

The report did say Pence published opinion editorials in newspapers about a policy proposal.

Beyond LoBianco, the State Integrity Investigation’s reporter consulted John Krull, chairman of the journalism department at Franklin College and executive editor of The StatehouseFile, a Statehouse student reporting program, along with media reports for the question about how well the governor explains his initiatives.

Read more about how Indiana fared across other areas of state government under Pence in the State Integrity Investigation here.

Other questions about executive accountability in the report probed the executive branch in Indiana on nepotism, cronyism, transparency, whether government functions are kept separate from the state’s ruling political party, and whether the governor or state cabinet officials are prosecuted for crimes they commit, among others.

Presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has had his own issues with the press during his campaign, from blacklisting news organizations to mocking reporters at rallies.


[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore via Creative Commons in Flickr]


  1. “The State Integrity Investigation (which, full disclosure, I worked on in 2011 and 2015), grades each state for its risk for corruption. Under Pence, Indiana earned a D-.”

    Thought of applying those same criteria to Ms. Clinton? It seems only fair.

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