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Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Des Moines in July. Photo: Rachel Mummey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mike Pence is positioning himself for a 2024 presidential run by aiming to raise a whopping $18 million this year, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: While polls show Donald Trump as an early Republican favorite, his former vice president also has been making moves to be a candidate. His group, Advancing American Freedom, is shaping up as a vehicle for testing the waters and building the infrastructure needed for a White House bid.

Driving the news: The group is staffed by some of Pence's top allies and ex-aides, including former chief of staff Marc Short, political adviser Marty Obst and former senior Trump White House staffer Paul Teller.

  • Donors at a recent retreat in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, were asked to chip in a percentage of the target sum, the source said.
  • AAF has also enlisted three fundraising firms to help build up its war chest, according to filings with state charity regulators.
  • A source familiar with the group's operations told Axios it's aiming to raise $18 million during its first year — a huge sum for a new nonprofit group that doesn't offer its donors a tax break.

Between the lines: AAF has served as a post-government platform for Pence to pursue his brand of social conservative advocacy and promote his various media appearances.

  • Since the group launched in April, it's spent about $60,000 on digital ads promoting the Indiana Republican and asking for contributions.
  • If Pence seriously eyes a 2024 run, AAF could provide a platform for pre-campaign activities such as polling and candidate travel. If he enters the race, it could pour a chunk of its funds into a supportive political group.

The big picture: A Pence run is looking like a stronger possibility as he attends political events in key presidential swing states.

  • He's also been fundraising for high-profile Republicans this year, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Virginia gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin and Iowa Republican Rep. Randy Feenstra.
  • AAF also is burnishing Pence's social conservative bona fides with a pair of briefs filed with the Supreme Court.
  • One seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade and the other aims to strike down limits on state education funding for religious schools.

Yes, but: Pence's standing among the Trump faithful remains shaky after he defied the former president's demand to withhold certification of Joe Biden's election victory in January.

  • Far from trying to walk back or obscure that split, though, Pence is leaning into his decisive role on Jan. 6.
  • When excerpts of a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa released this week reported that Pence asked former Vice President Dan Quayle about ways to avoid certifying the election results, a spokesperson called the reporting a "gross embellishment."
  • Pence, he said, "never wavered in his commitment to the Constitution."

Go deeper

House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress

Steve Bannon. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The House of Representatives voted 229-202 on Thursday to hold former Trump strategist Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The Justice Department will now consider bringing criminal charges against Bannon, marking a significant escalation in the Jan. 6 committee's efforts to enforce subpoenas against Trump allies who refuse to cooperate.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
38 mins ago - Economy & Business

Why it's so hard to tax wealth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Health

Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency — it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.