Evan Bayh doesn’t get it

Evan Bayh’s latest statewide email blast (about election reform) starts with the populist headline, “Power to the People.” But like too many things in Evan Bayh’s career, what starts out with such promise quickly becomes a vanity project.

Since announcing his retirement from the Senate, Bayh has criticized the moribund institution’s inane rules and courtesies, and recently started speaking out against the role of money in the electoral process. He co-sponsored and helped introduce the DISCLOSE Act, which is the first step toward restoring some of the limitations on corporate money struck down by the Citizens United ruling.

The DISCLOSE Act, co-introduced by Sens. Schumer, Feingold, and Wyden, is a good law that will increase transparency in the system. Like all bills, it’s imperfect. It doesn’t go far enough in some respects, and it omits some of the reforms that would be more effective. But I support this law, and I was proud of my Senator for being a part of it.

Despite that, Bayh’s email made me cringe. In the email, there’s no call for citizens to contact their other representatives to help support the bill. There’s no petition to sign. There’s no encouragement to talk to your friends & neighbors about the bill. Instead, it’s all about what Evan Bayh is doing to save us poor Hoosier citizens.

Bayh’s message isn’t about power to the people – it’s about more power to people like him. It makes you question his motives in supporting this bill. It brings to mind all the money the Bayh family has made from Wellpoint/Anthem. And it makes the populism ring hollow. It doesn’t help that the full top half of the email is a glamor shot of Bayh, shot from a low angle, with his arms outstretched and palms facing forward.

It’s shoddy messaging like this that lets the GOP get away with taking their marching orders from Wall Street banks and labeling as “a bailout” the Democratic plan to end the bailout culture. It’s hollow, self-aggrandizing language that makes voters question the integrity of Democrats, even when they pursue an agenda to benefit all Americans.

Evan Bayh is a part of the problem. He doesn’t get that phony, self-serving populism like this hurts the Democratic agenda and the democratic process.

Full text of Bayh’s email:

Election season has officially arrived. While I won’t be on the ballot this year, I care deeply about ensuring that our elections are fair and the voices of ordinary Hoosiers are heard.

Unfortunately, due to a recent Supreme Court decision, we are facing an election where there will be no limits on the amount of money that special interests can spend on ads that support or oppose a candidate. Worse, the ruling will allow powerful corporations to hide their unlimited expenditures by secretly funneling money through organizations whose sole purpose is to launch ads that distort the truth.

The majority’s 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case removes limits on how much money an oil company, a Wall Street bank, or even a corporation under foreign control can secretly spend on political advertisements. As a result, those who are beholden to special interests will be elected to defend special interests. The losers in all of this will be you, ordinary citizens.

That’s why I introduced a bill last week to close the floodgates opened by the Court’s ruling. My legislation would force shadow interest groups to disclose all of the major donors who fund their attack ads. It would require corporate CEOs to appear on camera to stand by any claims and say they "approve this message," just like candidates have to do now. And it would close loopholes that allow foreign corporations to influence the outcome of our elections.

I announced this bill on the steps of Supreme Court, and I recorded a video of the event to share with you. (Click here to take a look.) The goal is to enact these reforms by July 4th, in time to deter and expose the onslaught of misleading, negative ads that will air before the November elections. Hoosiers have a right to know the motives and agendas of those trying to influence their votes.

When it comes to removing the corrosive influence of special-interest money on politics, sunshine is the best disinfectant.