Indiana voters might want to rethink how they are deciding on who to elect to represent their state. This November, the voters of Indiana’s 6th congressional district elected Republican Greg Pence to represent them in the United States Congress.
Another Pence will head to Washington, D.C.
Republican Greg Pence won the 6th District congressional seat Tuesday night, following in his famous younger brother Vice President Mike Pence’s footsteps.
With 85 percent of the precincts reporting, Greg Pence had 63.4 percent of the votes compared with his Democrat opponent Jeannine Lake’s 33.4 percent.
It appears name recognition plus partisan preference was enough for Greg Pence to punch his ticket to Washington. Why does it appear those were the defining attributes that got Greg Pence elected? Because Greg Pence’s resume is not exactly stellar. Before running for Congress, Greg Pence ran some antique malls, an occupation he turned to after serving as the President of the Pence family business, Kiel Brothers Oil Company, for 16 years. Why did Greg Pence go from being President of an oil company to running some antique malls? Because Greg Pence’s 16 year tenure as President of Kiel Brothers Oil Company ended with bankruptcy, a messy affair that included Greg Pence defaulting on personal loan guarantees and bailing as soon as times got tough:
When Mr. Pence died in 1988, the Kiel family turned to Greg Pence to join the business. Mr. Pence steadily took on more responsibility until he became president in 1998. With that came other obligations to the company, and he and a younger member of the Kiel family, Theodore, each signed personal guarantees to the local Home Federal Bank to obtain loans to continue to expand.
A year later, Mr. Pence was named to Home Federal’s board of directors. As he was becoming a more prominent member of the Columbus business community, Mike was a rising power in the Republican Party.
Mr. Pence signed another guarantee in 2001, records show, promising to repay any outstanding debts from his personal assets if the need arose.
Three years later, it did — the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, facing $100 million in claims from creditors.
At the next regular board meeting of the bank, with the officials seated around a wooden conference table, Mr. Pence told them about the bankruptcy and said he would not be able to honor his personal guarantee to repay company loans. He acknowledged the obvious conflict of interest, board members said, and resigned from the board.
He had resigned abruptly from the company as well, leaving the restructuring work to the chief financial officer, David E. Roll, who, bank officials said, worked tirelessly, sometimes until midnight, trying to keep the company afloat. Attempts to reach Mr. Roll were not successful.
Last Monday, in a video on Twitter in which he discussed his views on the economy, Mr. Pence said of his business experience: “You have to put your employees and customers before yourself. I’ve always done that.”
That is not how former bank and company officials said Mr. Pence acted when it mattered most. While businesses fail all the time, said one former bank official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, such failures reveal the character of those involved, and Mr. Pence had “bailed.”
Besides leaving a bank in the lurch, as well as his employees, Greg Pence’s failed management of his family’s business also left the taxpayers of Indiana on the hook for millions of dollars in costs to clean up the polluted sites left behind by the bankrupt company:
The collapse of Kiel Bros. Oil Co. in 2004 was widely publicized. Less known is that the state of Indiana — and, to a smaller extent, Kentucky and Illinois — are still on the hook for millions of dollars to clean up more than 85 contaminated sites across the three states, including underground tanks that leaked toxic chemicals into soil, streams and wells.
Indiana alone has spent at least $21 million on the cleanup thus far, or an average of about $500,000 per site, according to an analysis of records by The Associated Press. And the work is nowhere near complete.
The federal government, meanwhile, plans to clean up a plume of cancer-causing solvent discovered beneath a former Kiel Bros. station that threatens drinking water near the Pence family’s hometown.
Greg Pence seems to have been keenly aware of his less than stellar resume, so decided that his best strategy to win his congressional seat was to do absolutely nothing, and just rely on his last name and party affiliation to carry him through:
Greg Pence avoided talking to the media during the election and didn’t participate in any debates during his campaign, relying instead on the strong Republican slant of the district and Mike Pence’s influence with GOP heavyweights.
This is the cost of partisanship: a man who has done nothing but leave financial and environmental messes in his wake was just elected to represent a population of nearly 700,000 people in the United States Congress, and he did it without talking to the media or participating in a single debate. America, we can do better than this.