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Mary Mazzoni headshot

3p Weekend: Everything You Need to Know About Trump's VP Pick

By Mary Mazzoni

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump announced his running mate selection this morning. Those who already resolved to vote against the real estate mogul may have hoped for a pick with a bit more comedic value (Sarah Palin redux? Sheriff Joe Arpaio? Omarosa?). But it was Indiana Gov. Mike Pence who came away with the win -- despite the fact that he endorsed Trump's competitor, Ted Cruz, in the primary race.

Pence is a GOP mainstay, having served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years before entering the governor's mansion, and his name appeared on multiple presidential short-lists. Some even pushed for him to take the bid over Mitt Romney in 2012. But Pence isn't exactly a household name, leaving many to wonder where he stands on the issues they care about and how he would perform as veep.

To answer all those burning questions, we took a look at Pence's voting record and his stance on environmental and social sustainability issues. Spoiler alert: It's not pretty.

Mike Pence on energy

While in the House of Representatives, Pence became known for a voting record heavily laden with fossil fuels. He backed the oil-soaked Bush-Cheney energy policy in 2003 and 2004. He voted against tax incentives for renewables three times, and consistently voted in favor of opening new oil refineries. His record on energy culminated during his last year in the House, when he voted 'yes' on both opening the outer continental shelf to oil drilling and barring the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Yikes.

That said, renewable energy and energy efficiency have grown slowly in Indiana with Pence at the helm, whether he actively pushed for it or not. The state offers modest tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency (about $500 to $1,000 on average), and is now home to over a dozen utility-scale solar plants. The administration is also pushing for increased biofuel production through the Hoosier Homegrown Fuels Program.

Nevertheless, Indiana remains one of the nation's largest coal producers, and it still relies on coal for the lion's share of its power needs. As of January 2015, Indiana's Whiting oil refinery had the largest processing capacity of any refinery outside the Gulf Coast region, according to the Energy Information Administration. And Pence continued to push back against disruptions in this trend, even suing the Obama administration over the Clean Power Plan while governor.

Mike Pence on climate change

In 2009, Pence sat down with MSNBC host Chris Matthews to talk about the success of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and the future of the Republican party. Naturally, it wasn't long before the topic turned to climate change. And Pence, then chairman of the House Republican Conference, had this to say:

“I think the science is very mixed on the subject of global warming, Chris. I'm all for clean air. I'm all for clean coal technology. I'm sure reducing CO2 emissions would be a positive thing ... But on the global warming issue, I know that in the mainstream media there is a denial of the growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming." Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Pence remains as confused on the science of climate change as his language. In a 2014 interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd, Pence said he doesn't know if man-made climate change "is a resolved issue in science today."

Mike Pence on the economy

You can say this about Mike Pence: When big business screws up, he won't be the one to bail them out. He represented the lonely GOP dissent against the Wall Street bailout, and also voted against the $15 billion bailout for GM and Chrysler. But it's hard to call him a bastion of economic foresight, either, as he also voted against the regulation of the subprime mortgage industry before the crisis.

An early supporter of the Tea Party movement, Pence pushed back against federal stimulus packages while in the House, saying lower taxes across the board would do more to lift the U.S. from its recession. And despite his qualms with using federal funds to bail out failing businesses, Pence received a 96 percent rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, indicating a pro-business voting record while in the House. But sadly, that pro-business view doesn't seem to extend to investors: Pence twice voted against allowing shareholders to weigh in on executive compensation.

In Indiana, Pence just signed a $31 billion budget -- and some breathed a sigh of relief after learning more than half was devoted to K-12 education. But those advocates weren't satisfied for long, as news broke that the package would shift money from struggling urban and rural school districts to those in the suburbs.

Mike Pence on LGBT rights

In 2008, Pence famously stated: "The future of conservatism demands traditional marriage." While in the House, he consistently voted in favor of defining marriage as one-man-one-woman and against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2009, he even voted against enforcing anti-gay hate crimes. So, it's no surprise that his voting record earned a "0" out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the U.S.

As governor of Indiana, Pence passed one of 2015's infamous "religious freedom" laws. He claimed the legislation extended legal protections to business owners who didn't want to participate in same-sex weddings, citing their religious beliefs. But opponents argued he was effectively legalizing discrimination. Following backlash from advocates and the Democratic party, Pence signed an amendment to the law, saying business owners can't use it to discriminate against queer people. But it did little to quiet his critics.

Mike Pence on women's reproductive rights

Pence has remained consistently vocal against a woman's right to choose, citing his conservative Christian values. After repeatedly voting to cut off federal funding to health providers that perform abortions and extend civil liberties to fetuses, Pence went full boar when he entered the governor's office.

This spring, Pence singed one of the nation's strictest abortion laws -- doubling-down on Indiana's policies that already severely limit access to abortion. Among other things, House Bill 1337 prohibits a woman from terminating a pregnancy due to genetic abnormalities in the fetus, which effectively means she could be forced to carry a pregnancy to term even a doctor tells her it is likely to result in a still birth. The law also mandates the cremation or burial of fetal remains following a miscarriage or abortion.

But many Indiana women were not having it. They took to social media to give the governor more detail about their lady-parts, since he seems so interested. Using the #PeriodsforPence hashtag, thousands connected with Pence and the bill’s author, state Rep. Casey Cox (also a man, in case that needs clarifying), to tell them about their menstrual cycles and ask for gynecological advice. Some were even blocked after calling Pence's office dozens of times to protest the legislation.

Mike Pence on homeland security

For those concerned about government overreach and privacy violations, Mike Pence's voting record is enough to induce shivers ... and possibly hives. For starters, he's a staunch supporter of the Patriot Act. He voted to make the act permanent in 2005 and to further extend wiretaps in 2011. He repeatedly voted against requiring warrants for wiretaps both in the U.S. and abroad, and pushed back against civil oversight of wiretaps and CIA interrogations. The ACLU gave Pence a mere 7 percent rating, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record while in the House.

He also voted against restricting no-bid defense contracts -- which increased from $50 billion in 2001 to $140 billion in 2010. Critics say such deals do little but line the pockets of defense contractors, and insist that disallowing competition among contractors is a waste of taxpayer money. Given Pence's stance on fiscal responsibility, this position is a bit odd, to say the least.

Oh, and when it comes to Trump's most infamous construction plan, he may have found a friend in Mike Pence -- who voted to build a fence along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2006.

For more information on Mike Pence's voting record, check out On the Issues or Vote Smart.

Image credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni