Will the Democratic effort to recruit Evan Bayh prove their undoing in the next session of Congress? Earlier I noted that the GOP still has opportunities to hold onto its Senate majority thanks to brighter-than-expected prospects in Nevada and New Hampshire. If they succeed, it might be because Democrats went out of their way to pull Bayh out of retirement.
Republicans have hammered Bayh ever since he entered the race for his lobbyist and cronyist politics, but now even the left-leaning Huffington Post has gotten into the act. Their political reporting team has dug up Bayh’s off-shore ties to an insurer facing a class-action lawsuit alleging a bait-and-switch scheme:
Evan Bayh, the former Democratic senator from Indiana and current Senate candidate, has at least $1 million in holdings with a Bermuda-based insurance company, Athene, that has a business model that a class action lawsuit is challenging as a bait-and-switch scam.
Athene’s business plan, the suit claims, is to buy up the annuities of retirees that had previously been invested in bonds and blue chip stocks, and instead pump their money into the risky bets of a private equity firm. That firm turns out to be Apollo Global Management ― where Bayh is a highly paid senior adviser ― which actually owns Athene, so if the gamble pays off, Athene’s parent company gets rich. If it flops, the retirees take the hit. …
In 2010, when Bayh was still a senator, he went to battle on behalf of Apollo and other money managers who were working desperately to thwart attempts to close or narrow what’s known as the “carried interest loophole,” which allows private equity and hedge fund managers to pay bargain-basement tax rates.
With Bayh’s help, the effort to close the loophole was derailed. An analysis of Apollo’s security filings suggests that the maintenance of the loophole has saved executives tens of millions of dollars on their tax bills since then.
As the HuffPo team reports, Bayh coincidentally signed on with Apollo as a “senior adviser for public policy” shortly after leaving the Senate in early 2011. The move has been good to his pocketbook, too; he has holdings in the firm worth between $1-5 million, and has received somewhere between $5.7 – $20.9 million in assets through them over the past five years. HuffPo reviews what has already emerged about Bayh’s Senate activity, including using his official time and travel to meet with job-hunters in New York.
All in all, it paints a picture of a politician on the make — someone looking to enrich himself through his connections to power both while in office and after leaving it. The article draws a very sharp contrast between the reality of Evan Bayh and his sanctimonious lecturing about money and politics when he exited office five-plus years ago. It’s a solid piece of reporting, with no small amount of derision and disgust coming through the prose — and no small amount of surprise either, considering the source and the proximity of the general election.
Speaking of schedules, BuzzFeed’s John Stanton found a surprising nugget yesterday in Bayh’s record, leapfrogging off of an earlier Free Beacon scoop. They reported earlier that, despite having a seat on the coveted Armed Services Committee for almost a decade, Bayh was AWOL 76% of the time. But where did Bayh go? Ahem:
Already ensconced on the Banking Committee, from which even an average politician could build a massive campaign finance war chest, a seat at the Armed Services table could give a young senator the sort of foreign policy gravitas he’d need to mount a presidential campaign in wartime America. The Bush administration, already at war in Afghanistan, was beating the war drums against Saddam Hussein and Iraq, and the committee was at the heart of the nation’s debate over the nascent war against terrorism.
But the ambitious senator rarely showed up to hearings of the committee, particularly in the run up to the March 20, 2003, invasion of Iraq. According to attendance data on the committee’s website, Bayh only attended five of the 24 hearings Armed Services held between Jan. 1, 2003, and April 9, 2003, the day Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad. Overall, throughout his career on the committee, the Indiana Democrat would miss roughly 76% of hearings, a figure reported by the Free Beacon earlier this month.
In fact, on the morning of the invasion, the committee held a hearing on that year’s defense authorization bill, a critical piece of legislation that laid out defense spending priorities for fiscal year. But while Bayh would miss the 9:45 a.m. hearing — where then Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham would testify about his department’s atomic energy defense activities — he did make it to an “informal breakfast” held by the Investment Company Institute earlier that morning.
Emphasis mine. That night, Stanton discovered, Bayh went to a breakfast hosted by Fannie Mae exec and Clinton administration figure Jamie Gorelick, as the invasion kicked off — and then spent the next three days in Vail, Colorado for some fundraising. That’s an interesting contrast to all of the Democratic populist talk about fighting Wall Street and money in politics, no? The Indianapolis Star certainly thought so, citing Bayh’s hypocrisy in their decision to endorse Republican Todd Young for the seat last week (via Guy Benson):
Young is a fitting successor to the senator he would replace: Republican Dan Coats, who is retiring from public office. Coats in the past six years has provided a thoughtful conservative voice in the Senate, and has served as a complementary bookend to Indiana’s other senator, moderate Democrat Joe Donnelly.
As for Bayh, the former governor and two-term senator made clear when he left office in 2010 his deep frustration with the partisan gridlock and dysfunction that plagued Congress then and now.
Yet, Bayh chose to remain in Washington, D.C., to take a job with a legal and lobbying firm. Bayh has insisted during this campaign that he has never worked as a lobbyist. But clearly the former senator was hired to work as a highly compensated adviser to companies doing business with government largely because of his experience on Capitol Hill.
And now Bayh, having made millions of dollars because of his insider connections, has decided to seek a return to the Senate. His leap into the race less than six months ago was driven chiefly by his party’s opportunity to regain control of the chamber.
To put it more clearly, Bayh’s only consistent quality is opportunism. Had Republicans not threatened to keep the Senate majority even with the large numerical advantage Democrats have in 2016, he never would have been recruited. A faceplant for Bayh from Hoosiers two weeks from now that leaves the GOP in charge of the upper chamber would serve up a plateful of delicious irony — and perhaps even the Huffington Post would appreciate the spectacle.