It seems like a lifetime ago that Evan Bayh, the beloved heir of an Indiana political dynasty, decided to step away from politics. It had just become too partisan, too dysfunctional for his liking. He believed that the only way to change Congress’ partisan calcification was from the outside.
“What is required from members of Congress and the public alike is a new spirit of devotion to the national welfare beyond party or self-interest,” Bayh wrote in a parting op-ed in the New York Times. “In a time of national peril, with our problems compounding, we must remember that more unites us as Americans than divides us.”
“In my final 11 months, I will advocate for the reforms that will help Congress function as it once did, so that our generation can do what Americans have always done,” Bayh continued. “convey to our children, and our children’s children, an American that is stronger, more prosperous, more decent and more just.”
But now Bayh is back. Fresh off a well-paid stint as a shadow lobbyist, the former Hoosier is now attempting to return to the institution that he once hoped to fix. Given his family’s popularity in the state and the incredible name recognition he held with voters, it seemed that Bayh would be a shoo-in.
As recently as August that appeared to be true. Bayh held a commanding 58 percent-to-32 percent lead over GOP Rep. Todd Young. Then the revelations about the real Evan Bayh started to come to the fore.
It turns out he didn’t spend his last year in Congress advocating for reforms to make it a more functional legislative body, he spent it searching for a job. The Associated Press reports:
Evan Bayh spent substantial time during his last year in the Senate searching for a private sector job even as he voted on issues of interest to his future corporate bosses, according to the former Indiana lawmaker’s 2010 schedule, obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.
The Democrat had more than four dozen meetings and phone calls with headhunters and future corporate employers over the months, beginning days after announcing his surprise retirement from the Senate on Feb. 15, 2010, through December of that year as his term came to an end. Bayh is now running to get his old seat back and help his party regain Senate control.
In June 2010, Bayh was among a small group of Democrats who helped kill a tax increase on private equity gains known as carried interest that was opposed by Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm who would have been impacted by the tax. Later that year, records show that Bayh regularly stayed in Apollo executive’s Manhattan residents and met with the company chief executive. The company later hired Bayh as an adviser.
Similarly, Bayh mingled with Marathon Oil board members before voting down an amendment that would have reduced tax deductions for manufacturing businesses, including oil companies. Bath would later be selected to serve on Marathon’s board.
It also turns out that Bayh’s call for “a spirit of devotion” and a focus on “national welfare beyond party” was nothing more than a ruse. Take, for example, Bayh’s response to a water crisis in West Calumet, Indiana. The city was literally declared uninhabitable after the EPA found elevated levels of lead in the blood of children.
Rep. Young immediately leapt to the town’s aid by introducing legislation to address the affordable housing shortage in East Chicago, which would provide a place for displaced Hoosiers. Democrat Rep. Pete Visclosky joined the efforts, saying he wanted to “work with all stakeholders.” But Bayh chose to put partisanship over policy. The Evansville Courier Press writes:
And the Bayh campaign’s response? Peter Luster, Bayh’s political director, blasted Young’s proposal as “politically expedient” and said it “reeks of cynicism and opportunism. Let’s be clear: East Chicago is our Flint and Todd Young is exploiting people that need help to try and get ahead.”
It was an odd response from a candidate who is basing his comeback on the notion of seeking bipartisan cooperation.
But it’s not odd at all when you consider that Bayh—who spends so much time in his million dollar Washington homes that he didn’t even know his Indiana address—is hardly a Hooser.
Given all the recent revelations about Bayh’s true character it’s little wonder that his lead in the Indiana Senate race is collapsing. New polling shows Rep. Young has pulled within a single percentage point of the Washington insider.
Now it’s time to seal the deal and say buh-bye to Bayh. Perhaps then he could finally do all those things he promised the last time he retired.