Despite revelations that a slew of Trump administration cabinet members have spent huge sums of taxpayer money on air travel and other expenses—$1 million alone for Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price before he resigned—Vice President Mike Pence burned up $242,500 of taxpayer money to fly from Las Vegas to Indianapolis and then to Los Angeles on Sunday for three days of Republican fundraisers.
Pence ostensibly flew to Indianapolis to watch a ceremony retiring the jersey of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning. But the former Indiana governor missed—and overshadowed—that grand occasion, leaving in a protest of his own moments after the opening ceremony of the Colts-49ers game because more than a dozen San Francisco players took a knee to protest racial injustice. The VP’s office has told reporters that Pence’s protest was not pre-planned, though, as San Francisco 49ers players have pointed out, some players were expected to take a knee to continue the protest started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernnick last year.
But the Washington Post disputes Pence’s innocence. Looking at the timeline, the Post notes that Sunday’s NFL 49er vs Colts game was scheduled to start at 1 pm(Eastern time). Pence started a thread on his official Twitter account at 1:08 pm “without a typo to be found.”
“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted, ending the thread at 1:24 with a highly stylized graphic. “This reinforces the obvious conclusion that Pence’s appearance at the game and his well-coordinated exit from it was staged. It was a Colts-Niners game — pitting his home-state team against the team from the liberal hotbed where the players’ protests over racial violence began. Pence’s press pool was informed that, in essence, there probably wasn’t any reason for them to join him inside the stadium. Why get out of your press van when Pence would go in, take a quick patriotic picture, and leave?” the Post reported.
Interrupting his truth-lacking tweet-storm rage against former campaign supporter Sen. Bob Corker,@realDonaldTrump tweeted: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.” And then Trump complained that he wasn’t getting enough praise from Puerto Rico: “Nobody could have done what I’ve done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!” Meanwhile, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asked Congress for more federal help. Not waiting for Trump or Congress, the Teamsters union and the AFL-CIO organized hundreds of truckers to go to Puerto Rico to help move supplies to desperate people inland.
Pence has denied he intends to run for president in 2020, but in an administration founded on lies and hypocrisy, “no” could turn to “yes” in an instant. Additionally, as the Los Angeles Blade pointed out in its recent cover story, Pence is a Christian Supremacist angling to lead the republic into a theocracy. Having donors back him, as Trump’s good, submissive Stepford wife, could be useful to moguls who prize loyalty.
Pence headed to a Beverly Hills fundraiser on Sunday night and on Monday stars with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a pricy political fundraiser at the Pelican Hill Country Club in Newport Beach where tickets start at $2,700 each. He is expected to fly north for a breakfast in Bakersfield, then a dinner in Sacramento—McCarthy represents Sacramento’s agricultural Central Valley, where he is expected to throw in some chatter about tax reform.
Pence may feel like the proverbial David in the Lion’s Den since California is a majority progressive Democratic state that voted against Trump-Pence by roughly 4 million votes and has since become a “sanctuary state” in dramatic opposition to Trump’s anti-immigration “policies.” This is a state still reverberates with the political fallout of the anti-Latino Prop 187. But Pence is also considered by some conservatives as the “adult” in the administration, a politician who was once in the Republican leadership of Congress and understands the importance of maintaining control of the House.
And protecting the seats of seven vulnerable Republicans takes money. KTLA report that Pence is expected to raise about $5 million for “a joint fundraising committee that raises money for the National Republican Congressional Committee, a political action committee run by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, whose district includes most of Bakersfield, and the vice president’s own PAC, dubbed the Great America Committee.” The seven seats are in districts that former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton won in 2016. According to Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel, the money will go to the re-election bids of Reps. Darrel Issa of Vista, Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach, Mimi Walters of Irvine, Ed Royce of Brea, Steve Knight of Palmdale, David Valadao of Hanford, and Jeff Denham of Turlock.
Democrats may be waiting until the primaries pick which candidates to back in opposing the vulnerable GOP elected officials. But with divisive infighting still fresh within the California Democratic Party, not mounting visible and strong opposition now to make a statement and generate new Democratic energy at the very least concedes the publicity ground to the Trump-Pence Republicans.