WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence received nearly $500,000 from a dozen contributors to pay his legal bills from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, according to his annual financial disclosure report that was released Tuesday.
The biggest backers were Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon and the California couple Michael Hayde and Laura Khouri who develop and manage apartment complexes. They each gave $100,000.
Other contributors include Pence's political adviser Marty Obst; national GOP fundraiser Ronald Weiser of Michigan; Florida real estate investor Leo Wells; Indiana businessmen Lawrence “Sonny” Beck, Paul Thrift and Tony Moravec; and Georgia businessman Brian McPheely, head of the country’s fifth largest corrugated packaging company.
The legal defense fund was created in December 2018 by Jim Atterholt, who served as Pence's chief of staff when he was Indiana's governor.
Pence hired an attorney, former U.S. Attorney Richard Cullen, after Mueller was appointed in 2017. But he was not billed until the end of Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Expenses were paid last June and the fund was terminated in August, according to the disclosure report.
Atterholt previously told USA TODAY that he volunteered to start the fund because he doesn't believe legal bills should be the cost of public service.
Pence's disclosure report shows his largest asset is a pension from the state of Indiana valued between $500,000 and $1 million.
Pence and his wife, Karen, have a modest bank account and owe between $100,001 and $250,000 in loans that were taken out to help pay for their children's educations.
Karen Pence reported earning between $2,501 and $5,000 in royalties for children's books she illustrated.
Donors to the defense fund certified that Pence himself had not requested the money and that the contribution comes from personal funds. Donors were also required to be U.S. citizens and could not be a registered lobbyist, government employee, government contractor or agent of a foreign government.
Pence was not asked by Mueller's team for an interview but provided documents, a White House official previously said.
Pence had been on the periphery of the investigation. His exposure was primarily through statements he'd made that were later contradicted.
Pence had publicly announced on Jan. 15, 2017, that former national security adviser Michael Flynn assured him he had not discussed with Russian officials the sanctions that then-President Barack Obama had imposed on Russia before leaving office.
Flynn was fired after the White House was told by the Justice Department that Flynn had lied about those conversations.
Trump's pressure on former FBI director James Comey not to go after Flynn was one of the "key issues and events" that Mueller's team considered when investigating whether Trump tried to illegally thwart the investigation.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vice President Mike Pence discloses donors to Mueller defense fund.