Bayh sold out

Dateline: Thu 18 Feb 2010

Matt Sledge, writing in Huff Post Monday, pretty much nailed Evan Bayh: he quit because of his wife's ties to corporate healthcare, as well as his own financial obligations to special interests. He knew that Susan Bayh's earnings of $2.1 million from serving on eight corporate boards, including WellPoint, would drag him down in the Senate race -- and subject him to plenty of heated criticism.

So, when the fire in the kitchen became too hot, he got out. Screw the party.

Not exactly the team player the Indianapolis Star and official blatherings are making him out to be. This is good behind-the-scenes reporting. Here is Sledge's take -- the title is "Evan Bayh's Very Long 2009."

"It's safe to say, now that he's confirmed his impending retirement, that 2009 was a terrible year for Evan Bayh. Pummeled by both the left and the right, Bayh evidently decided he didn't need to endure any more abuse. That didn't stop him from taking his time -- he waited until just a few days before the filing deadline to let the news slip. Indiana Democrats, already facing a very tough electoral climate, now have little time to collect the necessary 500 signatures from each of state's Congressional districts to qualify a new contender.

"As Chris Cillizza pointed out two months ago, Bayh's future in the Democratic Party was over long before this announcement (perhaps not coincidentally, Cillizza was also the first to report Bayh's decision). But more than Bayh's dimming political prospects, my guess is that what got to Bayh was the distinctly personal tone attacks on him had taken -- particularly those on his wife, Susan, who serves on the board of WellPoint, one of the nation's largest health insurers.

"Bayh started tacking to the right almost immediately after Obama's election, long before it became apparent to most that the coalition which had turned Indiana blue for the first time in 40 years would evaporate. Just weeks after Obama's stunning victory in the state, Bayh was trying to put together a Senate Blue Dog coalition. He took to the conservative op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal in March to decry an omnibus spending bill. He spoke out against cap and trade.

"On the most important issue of the year -- health care reform -- Bayh had a long hard time making up his mind. He told reporters there was no difference between voting for cloture on the bill and approving his bill on October 28; just a day later he abruptly reversed course and announced to Rachel Maddow that he'd definitely vote for cloture.

"Weeks later Bayh was singing a different tune. Now he was again unsure about how he would vote on the bill, because it contained large fees on medical device manufacturers. Quite a few companies in this industry -- Cook Group, Siemens, Zimmer, Boston Scientific and Medtronic -- have operations in his state. He told hometown radio station WIBC that his vote for the bill depended on cuts in the medical device fees:

I went to the leadership and I said, look, I'm just not gonna support this if you threaten these jobs, they listened to me, and they took action to make sure the jobs are now safe, and the industry should be alright.

"Perhaps unwittingly Bayh's boasts about the medical device fee cuts played into one of the biggest criticisms he has faced this year: his undeniable closeness with corporate special interests. Indeed, in a press release announcing the fee cuts Bayh managed to quote the CEOs of two companies that have made contributions to his campaign account through their corporate PACs. 85% of Bayh's campaign cash comes from out-of-state contributors, according to an October Northwest Indiana Times analysis. (That compares to 27% for Indiana's Republican Sen. Dick Lugar).

More than the shots from Glenn Greenwald (who called Bayh the "perfectly representative face for the rotted Washington establishment") and Matt Yglesias (Bayh was "acting to entrench the culture of narcissism and hypocrisy that's killing the United States Congress"), what really must have gotten to Bayh was the intensely personal tenor of the attacks on Bayh's wife, Susan.

"For many years Susan's membership on several major corporate boards (eight of them, in 2008) was something of an open secret. Only over the course of the health care reform debate was it widely spoken about in Indiana. With Bayh playing a prominent role in the haggling over the public option and medical device fees, it was impossible to ignore the fact that WellPoint, a behemoth insurer, was paying Susan Bayh hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Between 2006 and 2008 Susan earned $2.1 million from health insurers. Legal under Senate rules, Susan Bayh's refusal to step down from WellPoint's board, and her husband's denial that the millions she had earned from WellPoint would influence him, were greeted with derision from ethics watchdogs.....

"Susan Bayh's service on the WellPoint board was criticized by more than just wingnuts or diehard health care reform fanatics -- groups like Common Cause have raised serious questions about it. But for Bayh -- for both of the Bayhs -- it still must have felt like the politics of personal destruction. There were certainly other factors at play, and no doubt the reason Bayh cited in his announcement to the Indianapolis Star, increasing polarization in the Senate, weighed on him. But the promised attacks on Susan must have weighed on him just as much if not more, and he decided he wasn't going to take it anymore."

Your thoughts?


guy77money [unverified] said:

So does Susan keep all of her board seats with Evan bowing out? What a wussy Evan has become. Oh well I truly hope he's out of politics for good, just listening to him makes me think of my old boring eigth grade math teacher.

2010-02-18 05:11:29

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Harsh stuff, but not undeserved. The quotes that turned me were the ones where he said that he and Susan didn't talk about this stuff (health care talking points) at home and that those (health care) lobbyists weren't welcome in his office.

Well, of course not, not when what he needs to do for them is right there on Susan's PC for him to read, or just a CEO golf game chatfest away.

Evan, thanks for thinking I'm as dumb as I must look.

guy77money, I think the board jobs won't go right away (to keep up appearances). But, I have read that Susan is "tiring" of the workload, a concept that I find laughable, and that she might "retire" from them.

2010-02-18 05:28:59

Citizen X [unverified] said:

I think perhaps his delayed announcement was designed to ensure there was no messy primary, allowing an appointed candidate. This would save the party money and allow them a window of time to attack the GOP candidate without a Dem target to attack.

2010-02-18 06:10:49

ruthholl [Member] said:

Has anyone read the NUVO column that says his timing is deliberate? I have not seen it yet; friend mentioned yesterday.
He really was never suited for this office -- he is not a deal-maker, not a fighter.
Maureen Groppe at the Star's Washington bureau wrote extensively of Susan Bayh's earnings, as I recall. Not sure if she broke the story or was just playing catch-up, but again, I think it was a case of reporters following up on lusty and loud complaints from citizens and bloggers. MSM blew this story Monday; have to go to the blogs to get at what is afoot...

2010-02-18 06:30:50

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

What's the ad on top of this post regarding card-check? Are you aware it's there? Do you know what that bill concerns? The ad is extremely misleading.

Sledge is entitled to his opinion. But anyone who writes that Susan's board memberships were under-the-radar is laughably off-point and under-informed. he term "piling on" comes to mind. Pack journalism at its best. Who DIDN'T know five years ago, huh?

Yes, the venom regarding those board seats surprised Evan. I don't know why, but it did. They played with fire on that score for ten years.

But he honestly thought the overall volume and shrillness had gotten too vindictive...for him and for folks with whom he disagreed. You might be surprised to know some of his best Senate friends were far to the right.

It is true, those lobbyists were not welcome in his office. He and Susan did not talk about the specific issues. You can laugh, but it is true.

Look: I wish she hadn't served on certain boards. Emmis is probably OK, and Jeff Smulyan was there Monday for the announcement. But tell me--what is a bright spousal lawyer supposed to do when spouse is elected to office?

She was at B&T when he was elected SOS. She worked specifically on the electric company dispute between the REMCs and an investor-owned utility for the new Subaru plant in Lafayette. Folks complained, so she resigned. She went to Lilly. Folks complained, so after awhile, she resigned. It's almost as if the voters expected her to be a hand-maiden to his career, which is insulting. I don't have an answer here...just venting.

God forbid one of my smart daughters marries a statewide officeholder. Should she forgo her profession?

Regardless what you think of the Bayhs, this is a fair question...and for what it's worth, the target moved substantially during his public career. The Bayhs are probably the canary in the mine on this issue.

Yeah, this still hurts.

2010-02-18 07:06:48

varangianguard [unverified] said:

Well TTT, Susan could have worked for any number of NGOs, charities or Think Tanks. Could have taught Law again (aren't there some really good Law Schools out that way? /sarcasm). Could have been on the boards of dozens and dozens of big companies paying similar compensation that had nothing to do with Evan's political interests.

Most especially anything that was not so closely connected with the work that Evan's committee assignments did. That's the key. Don't be riding the gravy train that depends on decisions her husband's political work makes.

If it smells bad, it most likely is bad. Putting on the "not me" kiddie act doesn't make it all go away.

2010-02-18 07:55:56

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Well, Varan, it's not a kiddie act, and that's kind of insulting. But you have a point--the committee assignment relationship is suspect. Always was.

But this is an impossible standard: "...dozens of big companies paying similar compensation that had nothing to do with Evan's political interests."

What, pray tell, has nothing to do with a United States Senator's agenda? For any Senator, the world is his/her platter.

This exact issue was discussed during Evan's gubernatorial transition. There was literally no job that could be found, that didn't raise someone's hackles. Seriously. Charities even fight among themselves, and complain, if their "competing" charities get a top-profile name on their board or in management.

You would not believe the grief the Bayhs took when Susan represented PSI over the Subaru Lafayette territorial dispute. It was way over the top, criticism-wise.

Your overall point, though, is thoughtful, and frankly, we'd ought to have a broad national discussion on spousal employment. As in Hadassah Lieberman.

Elaine Cho (Mrs. Mitch McCononell) was the National Trade Representative a few years ago...a plum position that, frankly, bargained away way too many American jobs and products to low-wage international competitors.

Yet that chipmunk-faced Senate Minority Leader got **zippo* public grief over it. Maybe that's fair. Right about now it doesn't feel like it, and in 2010, voters are hopping mad about everything DC-related.

2010-02-18 08:44:24

varangianguard [unverified] said:

TTT, golly. Just an offhand search of the top 200 US corporations yielded 39 in the top 100 and 55+ in the second 100 where Susan could have resided as a director without a modicum of crossover with Evan's political interests and/or committee assignments. If, that is, she had more skills as a corporate director beyond being married to a US Senator sitting on committees whose work is of great interest to said corporations?

Expecting me to buy into that "we don't allow any of this to influence me" is much more insulting than me thinking his "innocent" act is beyond the pale.

And, please don't insult chipmunks like that. I'm offended.

2010-02-18 09:22:05

hendy [Member] said:

What's important is to get past this, elect someone that can do the job and whose aim is clearly defined. Time and again, here and on public forums, I've stated the need that candidates should limit contributions, where they come from, and completely and earnestly be open about who their contributors are. Bribery of the congress has become to huge. Influence peddling has become sincerely ugly, and the rednecks are trying to rule. Bah.

2010-02-18 10:53:03

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy for King.

Varan for, hmmmmmmmm....I'm thinking.

2010-02-18 11:57:03

hendy [Member] said:

Bah. It's common sense. It strikes against the money-making machine that influence peddling has become. Clean? No one is without 'sin'. But there are those that can eschew bribery and do what's right. We've become like a third-world country with congressional bribery and the madness of PACs. The SCOTUS dealt a huge blow to freedom of speech. Now we'll all pay.

I remember listening to Judge Robert's confirmation hearings on NPR. He vowed never to do such a thing. Judicial activism is alive and well and its party is both.

2010-02-18 14:36:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

The words that send a shiver down my spine if the GOP regains control of the Senate:

Judiciary Chairman Jeff Sessions.

Here's a man who, as a US Attorney, was as bigoted as you can be and remain in office.

2010-02-18 14:56:42

ruthholl [Member] said:

I bow to all of you -- insider info, principled stands, healthy and vigorous debate. I do think the fact that Ellsworth is now the Dems' No. 1 pick shows us what a lock Indiana's inherent conservatism has on the state; Bayh can be, depending on your point of view, a great common-sense Hoosier or a total traitor to the President's agenda. But the larger point is, I believe, he sincerely followed his own conscience and sincerely tried to represent the state.
Also, I think many Hoosier Dems are trailing clouds of glory when it comes to Bayh ... so many fine young men and women came up thru the ranks in his administration. I did not always agree with his fiscal policies, but I think he did a great job mentoring a new slew of leaders.
But his spousal issues were, in my view, a legitimate source of concern in many quarters for some time, as TTT points out. And it is safe to presume that they may have influenced his decision-making in terms of quitting. I just found Sledge's insight far more bracing than the namby-pamby stuff in the Star, hence, I wanted to share it for those who had not seen it or wanted to express other perspectives (or agree).
And goodness knows, it is a brutal arena. I remember when the Bayhs were in office in Indiana; it was a never-ending barrage of picking on Mrs. Bayh for things as insignificant as a love of Baskin-Robbins. As Hunter Thompson said, the press is ..,"a crue gang of "faggots."
Maybe some of that stuff never made it into print, but you can believe reporters stirred the pot. It ain't easy, being a governor...or a senator.
Still, I suspect the Bayhs made a calculated decision to go for the big bucks.
As for that ad, TTT, it keeps changing, and I can't ditch it; it's a Google ad on my screen, ever shifting...this is what comes from lifting text from HuffPost, although I was careful not to include the ads, or so I thought. But Google took a blow in China, and I am pleased to host them for free here for a spell. Altho, God knows, the bill may be in the mail....

2010-02-18 15:42:33

Write Man [Member] said:

Did Bayh "sincerely try to represent this state?" According to a Reuters poll (here: just under 60 percent of Americans want a public option for healthcare.

If we assume Hoosiers are pretty much with the rest of the country (and my guess is we are...even more so in light of Wellpoint's bombshell rate increases) then most of us in the state want the public health option. I know I do.

So why was Mr. Sincerity so reluctant to support that? That's the problem with the connection between he, Susan and Wellpoint. Take her out of the equation (and I do get the problematic nature of her trying to find a job in this crummy economy...but hubby's s'posed to be working on that, too, right?) and suddenly Bayh's taking a positioned stance (the wrong one according to the polls, but you could argue it was his conscience anyway).

With the equation intact, it's impossible not to do the math and know that a public option would reduce Wellpoint's profits. Sorry. He seems like an OK (though supremely calculating) guy. But sincere? I don't think so. He may be better than Elsworth, but in terms of representing what people *say* they want, neither of 'em are going to do us any good.

For a real puke of a story about it, read Fineman's take at Newsweek. I'd swear he was once a reporter at the Star.

2010-02-18 16:33:30

hendy [Member] said:

Maybe it boils down to this:

Does corporate America run America, or do its people?

Bayh was always paranoid about his war chest. His spousal compromises made his position tough. He seemed harmless, but inaction in the face of tough choices always appears to be the right approach. But like Mencken said, complex questions often have simple answers, and they're wrong.

I'll occasionally take an uncompromising candidate, even if their positions might be contrary to my own. Better the devil you know....

2010-02-18 16:48:49

Write Man [Member] said:

There have been more than a few articles (of the hand-wringing variety) detailing the "collapsing middle." Maybe that's exactly what we need to get this country moving in one direction (hopefully the left one;) or another. No more middle trying to make compromises that either do nothing, or don't in fact, happen (due to the right's refusal to truly compromise on ANYTHING).

If nothing else, it would motivate the public to vote out whatever party had the stones to truly try to force through its policies...put up or shut up.

2010-02-18 17:07:57

Write Man [Member] said:

Oh yeah...good points Hendy!

2010-02-18 17:08:47

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Thank you, Ruth,. Calming comments.

And yeah, this still hurts.

2010-02-19 06:14:23

Shorty Long [unverified] said:

God. For once I will have to agree with your sewing circle. Bayh basically screwed the pooch and was finally going to get caught. Just got back from CPAC, they were all getting a good laught about Indiana politics, including our Guv.

2010-02-22 14:39:55

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

Bayh's announcement was stunning. I am pretty much in the same camp as Ruthie. I think he is sick of the Senate. I think he was sick of the Senate, based on his family's connections to it, long before he was ever elected to that end of the U.S. Capitol.

I wish he had taken better care of the Indiana Democratic party because it is quite possible that John Hostettler could put together a statewide right wing, tea-part, gun-loving, anti-abortion coalition that would narrowly defeat the weakened Democrats.

I also wish Bayh would not have blamed the Senate for his personal decision.

Oh well...

2010-02-22 16:00:01

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