During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-Governor Mike Pence promoted his running mate Donald Trump’s platform to “drain the swamp.” However, over the course of 2017, a trio of Hoosiers with direct ties to Pence represented nearly one in six groups lobbying the Office of the Vice President. According to federal filings, the lobbying firms of the three men have received a total of nearly $3.5 million in payments from these clients during reporting periods in which the trio has contacted the vice president’s office.
In all, 232 groups reported lobbying Pence’s office in 2017, and the three Hoosiers represented 36 of them. The most productive of the trio has been Robert “Bob” Grand, who lobbied the Office of the Vice President on behalf of 19 clients in 2017. Grand is an Indianapolis-based lobbyist who fundraised for the vice president during the 2016 campaign and has gone on the record as a “longtime Pence adviser.” According to his Barnes & Thornburg biography, where he is a managing partner, Grand was a senior member of the Trump campaign’s finance group and a finance vice chair of the Trump inauguration committee. Grand is not, however, the only tie Barnes & Thornburg has to Pence: Matthew Morgan, who was a lawyer for Pence’s gubernatorial campaign, also worked at Barnes & Thornburg as a federal lobbyist for multiple Indiana public entities before he was again hired by Pence to serve as deputy counsel in the Office of the Vice President. According to federal lobbying filings, during quarters in which Bob Grand lobbied the vice president’s office for those clients, Barnes & Thornburg received a total of $2.1 million from them.
While Grand and his lobbying firm were already established in Washington, D.C. prior to the 2016 election, two of Pence’s other Indiana associates moved onto the national stage only after the vice president was sworn in, and then began lobbying the Office of the Vice President on behalf of multiple clients. Bill Smith served as Pence’s chief of staff while he was a representative in Congress and then again while he was governor of Indiana. Smith opened a Washington, D.C. branch of his Indiana lobbying firm, Sextons Creek, shortly after President Trump’s electoral victory. Smith partnered with the lobbying firm Fidelis Government Relations, and has already signed 11 clients — including the National Biodiesel Board, Fuels America, and Verizon — for which he has lobbied the Office of the Vice President. According to federal lobbying filings, Sextons Creek has already received over $820,000 from those clients for lobbying during quarters in which Bill Smith lobbied the vice president’s office.
Likewise, Victor Smith left his position as then-Governor Pence’s secretary of commerce in December 2016. In the beginning of January–two weeks before Pence was sworn in as vice president–the Indianapolis-based Bose Public Affairs Group LLC announced that Smith had signed on as a principal. Since joining Bose, Smith has lobbied the vice president’s office for six organizations, including Ford Motor Company and the UnitedHealth Group. According to federal lobbying filings, Bose has already received $570,000 from those clients for lobbying during quarters in which Victor Smith lobbied the vice president’s office.
As President Trump’s administration enters its second year, time will tell if his pledge to drain the swamp will gain traction. As it stands, however, Vice President Pence’s associates appear to be enjoying rising water levels.