Political Animal


June 07, 2011 12:30 PM Evan Bayh and a never-ending series of disappointments

By Steve Benen

In February 2010, then-Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana announced he would retire at the end of his term. Though a fairly safe bet for re-election, Bayh said he was tired of the “strident partisanship” and “unyielding ideology” in Washington, and would instead seek “an honorable line of work.” He added he wanted to do something “worthwhile for society,” and mentioned possibly teaching and/or doing philanthropic work.

These notable sentiments didn’t last. Bayh left the Senate and soon after became a lobbyist. Despite decrying “strident partisanship,” he also signed on as a Fox News contributor. In his free time, he became a very well paid “adviser” to a huge public-equity firm.

As if this weren’t quite enough, Bayh has decided to add insult to injury.

As iWatch News’ Peter Stone reports, Bayh has signed on with one of the most corporate-friendly, anti-environment shops in all of Washington, DC: the US Chamber of Commerce. According to an internal memo penned by Chamber president Tom Donohue, Bayh, along with former Bush White House chief of staff Andy Card, are now part of the Chamber’s anti-regulation messaging team, doing “speeches, events, and media appearances at local venues.”

The Chamber’s hiring of Bayh, a big name in Washington circles, will only help its efforts to delay or kill new regulatory legislation in Congress. Indeed, Donohue’s memo touts how the Chamber has filed legal briefs to challenge the validity of President Obama’s health care reform bill; successfully delayed a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule on giving shareholders a say on corporate directors; unveiled plans to undermine the clout of the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and delayed a rule forcing companies to disclose when they use conflict minerals from the Congo in their products. Bayh and Card, the memo says, will help the Chamber push this pro-corporate agenda in Washington and beyond.

I’m not sure what’s a bigger disappointment: Bayh’s Senate career or his post-Senate career. At this point, I’m leaning towards the latter.

To be sure, Bayh is free to do as he pleases. I’m sure the Chamber will pay him extremely well to undermine the public’s interests, and I don’t begrudge a guy for wanting to make a good living. But if Bayh wanted to cash in, did he really have to vow to seek “an honorable line of work” that would prove “worthwhile for society”?

On his way out, Bayh made himself out to look like some sort of hero. He envisioned coming home from a day of teaching and telling his wife, “Dear, do you know what we got done today? I’ve got this really bright kid in my class, and do you know what he asked me, and here’s what I told him, and I think I saw a little epiphany moment go off in his mind.”

But he never made it to the classroom.

Bayh is practically a caricature of what a sell-out looks like.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • DZ on June 07, 2011 12:35 PM:

    I'm sure Bayh is doing this because he really needs the money, too. Every time I see one of these stories I think of that scene in Wall Street where Bud Fox asks Gordon Gekko, "How much is enough?" I've been thinking of that scene a lot lately.

  • SkJL on June 07, 2011 12:45 PM:

    Yep, greed is good.

  • Mimikatz on June 07, 2011 12:47 PM:

    Bayh is an intelligent person with several children. He is precisely kind of person I would like to ask what he thinks about climate change and how it is going to unfold. Does he think his kids will be so thrilled by their big inheritance that they won't care that his work for the Chamber helped make their world a living hell? Or maybe he thinks they can wait it out in a gated community somewhere. Or maybe he doesn't think. Either way, I'd like to understand.

  • scott_m on June 07, 2011 12:49 PM:

    "Iím not sure whatís a bigger disappointment: Bayhís Senate career or his post-Senate career. At this point, Iím leaning towards the latter."

    I prefer Evan Bayh out of the Senate to in it; and in a couple of years, I'll be saying the same about Ben Nelson as he pads his bank accounts similarly.

    Evan's dad was terrific progressive--what the heck happened between those generations?

  • blondie on June 07, 2011 12:50 PM:

    I always wonder whether his daddy is disappointed in him...

  • Neil B on June 07, 2011 12:52 PM:

    Evan Bayh is our archetypal epitome of what a fake Democrat is all about. Good bye from public life but I am so sorry this piece of trash will be helping the Koch/CoC suckers draw down the public interest.

  • doubtful on June 07, 2011 12:53 PM:

    Stories like this beg the unanswered question: What does it mean to be a Democrat?

  • square1 on June 07, 2011 12:54 PM:

    Bayh proved to be such an utter douchebag while in office that I strain to believe that anyone could actually be disappointed in his behavior since he left. Remember, the guy gave a big f--- you to the party by announcing his retirement so late that it was effectively impossible for his replacement to be anyone other than a corporate tool.

    If I had to pick an actual disappointment -- and it is damn hard for a Senator to let me down given my general low expectations -- I would go with Tom Daschle. Daschle's post-Senate whoring for the health insurance industry was truly over the top.

  • Hmmmmm on June 07, 2011 12:54 PM:

    Sounds like Bayh could use a midnight visit from Jacob Marley.

  • c u n d gulag on June 07, 2011 12:57 PM:

    Evan is to his daddy, as Chris is to Mike Wallace, and Andrew is to Mario Cuomo.

    Has anyone checked their DNA to see if their Mom's weren't fooling around with the milkman or someone?

  • Shalimar on June 07, 2011 1:04 PM:

    He created the narrative he wanted to create. Far more people will remember his retirement to do good work than will ever notice that he immediately went to work for selfish, destructive interests.

  • JW on June 07, 2011 1:06 PM:

    That's not the word I'd use.

    Or is it possible to be disappointed in someone to whom no expectations were ever extended?

  • Old Uncle Dave on June 07, 2011 1:07 PM:

    When Bayh spoke of said “worthwhile for society” he apparently meant the upper crust whose names appear in the newspapers' "Society" pages.

  • JEA on June 07, 2011 1:31 PM:

    Mr. Benen, your biggest problem (and the left's in general) is that you expect Democrats - especially ones in office for years and years - to NOT behave like politicians out for personal gain.

  • berttheclock on June 07, 2011 1:33 PM:

    Yes, Mr Bayh, I do have a far higher opinion of Cal Worthington ("If you want a better deal, go see Cal" riding atop a hippo than you. He was a far more honorable used car salesman.

  • jjm on June 07, 2011 1:51 PM:

    "Bayh is practically a caricature of what a sell-out looks like."

    I'd say rather that he is practically a caricature of what a man looks like.

    He is all dolled up all the time. He has the same plastic look at the blow dried Gavin Newsom, another DINO.

  • Barbara on June 07, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Evan Bayh is the kind of person who had everything given to him and never found the internal motivation to work hard -- he just doesn't seem to think that anything he wants to achieve should require a lot of work on his part. I assume that's why he is not teaching, even more so than the money, you can't just show up and wing your way through day after day -- unlike Fox or even lobbying, where all your talking points are delivered to you by junior staff members.

    I think this is what separates him from Andrew Cuomo.

  • FRP on June 07, 2011 2:19 PM:

    The level of expectation in matters of state should be subject to a scale that measures both time and how it warps a sense of propriety , i.e. , right from wrong , because politics distorts peoples character ?
    Got it .
    I remember being told it is necessary to lie to the people in order to get them to accept certain required changes , like child labor for chillun whose parents caint efford skulin .
    If we could only know what the narrative is and the facts are , like a system of public analysis questioning the sermons of our most precious commodity , lobbyists in training .

  • Gregory on June 07, 2011 2:47 PM:

    Cue Glenn Reynolds and various other hacks citing "even the liberal Evan Byah"'s opposition to regulation in 3...2...

  • John Puma on June 07, 2011 5:21 PM:

    The bigger disappointment: Bayhís Senate career or his post-Senate career?

    How about a nice, bipartisan, non-ideological:
    precisely, equivalent, reprehensible slime.

  • UnEasyOne on June 07, 2011 8:33 PM:

    I can only be disappointed in someone who has some credibility with me, and whom I respect.

    How do I feel about this creep? Unsurprised.

  • digitusmedius on June 07, 2011 8:50 PM:

    Douchebag just doesn't doesn't begin to cover it.

  • Alan in SF on June 08, 2011 12:43 AM:

    You can't sell out if you never had it to begin with.

    It's not so much that Bayh is a disgrace to the Democratic Party -- he's pretty much standard issue DLC, and the DLC is the Democratic Party these days. What's really pathetic is what a contrast Bayh is to his father. Birch Bayh exemplified what Senators were supposed to be; Evan Bayh, unfortunately, exemplifies what Senators have become today.