Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Storm On Ports: Bayh And The Dubai Buy

A Storm On Ports: Bayh And The Dubai Buy

for Howey Political Report Feb. 23, 2006

Sen. Evan Bayh didn't miss a heartbeat on Fox News Sunday last week when asked about a story that at the time was little more than a cloud on the horizon outside the beltway - the Bush administration's approval of a deal that would allow DP World, a company mainly owned by the United Arab Emirates, to conduct significant operations at six major U.S. seaports.

"There can't be a choice between profits and protecting the American people," he said. "We have to do, even if it costs us a couple extra bucks, what it takes to protect this country. I'll give you one little example. About 80 percent of the magnets that make our smart bombs go are now made in China. It's not smart to rely on China to produce important weapons systems for this country, just like it's not smart to outsource our port security if there's any doubt."

On Monday, Bayh's office issued a press release outlining steps he intends to propose in legislation that would "stop outsourcing our homeland security."

"The Dubai takeover is a symptom of a much larger problem," Bayh stated in the press release. "Again and again, the current system for overseeing foreign takeovers has undermined our national security interests by rubber stamping deals like this one."

While the week's events unfolded, Bayh flew off to Florida and later California for several days of fundraising.

Lawmakers (including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist), hacks and bloggers of every political stripe began to whip up a veritable maelstrom that continues to batter the administration. So far, the president says he will not be moved. On Tuesday, while returning to the White House from Colorado, Bush conducted an unusual interview with the press pool aboard Air Force One.

The president insisted the company and deal had been thoroughly vetted, and noted that DP acquired the ports operations through the takeover of a foreign-owned company already administering the contract, UK-based P&O.

"I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British [sic] company," Bush said. "I'm trying to conduct foreign policy now by saying to people of the world, 'We'll treat you fairly.'"

"They ought to look at the facts, and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it, with a veto."

Threat of veto - it would be the president's first - only fanned the flames. Bill Gertz reported in Wednesday's Washington Times that several unnamed administration security officials said the deal could potentially allow terrorists to infiltrate seaports. And Indiana's own Rep. Mike Pence - never one to shy from an opportunity to remind the president of the party's conservative roots - joined a growing chorus by urging the president to put a hold on the port contract (HPR Daily Wire, Feb. 22).

Some observers insisted the president was right. Ports of Indiana spokesman Jody Peacock explained to The Times of Northwest Indiana that the U.S. Coast Guard regulates all ports and vessels regardless of the ownership of the companies working at any individual port.

Others suggested that lawmakers behaved irresponsibly. "Everyone is playing politics, and it's very unfortunate," Judith Kipper of the Council on Foreign Relations told Newsday. "It reconfirms to Arab and other allies that the United States is not a friendly place for investments and financial transactions." In an editorial entitled "Paranoia about Dubai ports deal is needless," the Financial Times stated "The bluster about national security conceals one of the uglier faces of U.S. protectionism - the one with the slightly racist tinge."

According to Bayh spokesperson Meghan Keck, the senator's proposed legislation will directly address such concerns by requiring the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which approves such sales, "to consider any country - whatever country is involved in the business deal - to consider that country's relationship with the U.S. before it approves that sale."

The legislation would also require the Director of National Intelligence to certify there are no troubling national security implications of such sales; add the director to the Committee to bolster national security consideration; require the president to notify Congress and relevant state officials of all proposed foreign acquisitions; and, calls for increased transparency at the Committee.

As Helen Delich Bentley, a former Maryland congresswoman and a port consultant, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, CFIUS has always operated in secrecy, and has approved many deals that she objected to.

Keck noted that "Since CFIUS was formed in 1988, they've only stopped one business purchase."

"Like the magnets that were made in Indiana, Sen. Bayh believes that there are some assets that the U.S. should never have to depend on other countries to provide."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bayh, Democrats & Security: The Nitty Gritty, Down & Dirty

Bayh, Democrats & Security: The Nitty Gritty, Down & Dirty

for Howey Political Report Feb. 16, 2006

USA Today reports the Democrats are assembling their own version of a "Contract with America" to unite the party by spring or summer, but nowadays it seems nothing divides the opposition quicker than a call to rally.

Reaction to Sen. Evan Bayh's "tough and smart" talk on national security Feb. 2 (see HPR Feb. 9) is a case in point. An apparent effort to shape the Democratic agenda and possibly score in the arena of public opinion as well, the Senator urged his party to challenge the Republicans on national security.

The story almost instantly went coast-to-coast, but while the cameras clicked and pundits debated, the gist of Bayh's message was seeping into the cracks and fissures that divide "the party of the common man."

The blogosphere struck back with characteristic speed and venom on Feb. 9th after the Senator posted a 500-word version of his 3,500 word speech at the web site of The Huffington Post. "The Wimpy Empty Suits Undermining Dems on National Security," wrote David Sirota, a campaign strategist and writer who appears regularly on Al Franken's radio show. Hundreds posted comments. A slew of Democrats loudly opposed anyone - including Bayh, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and others - who at any time supported the war in Iraq. Republican lite, they said. Or DINO. Or worse.

Others said America's security hinges on domestic issues, and believe tough talk simply plays into the hands of the administration. Still others were offended by what columnist Molly Ivins described as playing "the patriotic bully card." Sadly, some comments were downright full of the spittle that makes politics an unhappy place for many Americans. It's not that everyone piled on - numerous blogs and comments expressed support for the message from Indiana's junior senator - but the tone and content of many posts make it clear national security is going to be a difficult plank for the Democratic Party to nail down.

If Bayh was looking to elevate the debate - well, he certainly made it hot and interesting at least for several days, until the news broke that Vice President Dick Cheney shot a friend while hunting Feb. 11, and that story began to consume everyone's attention. If the senator was hoping to become better known among Democrats, one can easily imagine such is the case, though a recent poll of New Hampshire voters doesn't seem to signal much in the way of progress for the Bayh campaign.

Little Support In New Hampshire Democratic Poll

New Hampshire's voting elite are acquainted with a previous version of Bayh's tough talk. Speaking before 600 of the state's most influential Democrats at a fundraiser in Manchester last October, he slammed the White House on North Korea and military deployment, according to the Concord Monitor. Apparently, the crowd was not swayed - the Monitor of Feb. 12th reported that the Hoosier senator polled just one percent among persons likely to vote in that state's Democratic primary, finishing well behind Hillary Clinton (32 percent) and undecided (31), and trailing, among others, John Edwards (9) and John Kerry and Wesley Clark (7 each).

Testing The Waters In Iowa

Perhaps Bayh will make a better impression in Iowa, where he spent the first part of this week on the hustings. According to news reports, his "presidential exploratory campaign" visited Cedar Rapids for a speech and breakfast, Iowa City for a meeting with local leaders, Ottumwa for a fundraiser and Des Moines to meet with Democrats in the state legislature (Louisville Courier-Journal).

He made a bit of a splash in Des Moines when he pledged to support Iowa's Democratic state lawmakers in the fall campaign to help them regain control of the state Legislature, according to Mike Glover of the Associated Press.

"I wanted to establish a strong partnership," Bayh told Glover. "If we're going to have a strong national Democratic Party it's got to start at the grassroots level, in Statehouses, in the city halls, in the county courthouses."

Aides told the Des Moines Register that Bayh could return to Iowa as early as May.

All America PAC: Stingy Or Shrewd?

A Feb. 14th article distributed by Bloomberg provided an analysis of recent Federal Election Commission filings that indicates Bayh's leadership PAC - All America PAC - is ranked sixth in Congress. The article noted that he, like others considered to be presidential contenders, has given only a small amount (4.8 percent for Bayh) in support of other federal candidates and committees, compared with an average of 22 percent for the top 25 PACs. Bayh was more generous than Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who gave 1.8 percent.

Watchdog groups are calling for tighter regulations for all lawmakers' leadership PACs, in part because they have multiplied - more than 40 percent of the members of Congress now have them - and because some have veered from their original purpose of contributing to other candidates, according to the news account.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Bayh Talks Tough On Labor & Security

Bayh Talks Tough On Labor & Security

for Howey Political Report Feb. 9, 2006

Sen. Evan Bayh sent a tough, clear message this week to the 600 executives at Delphi who intend to reap $510 million in incentives while cutting benefits to hourly workers - many of them Hoosiers - calling the move "a disgrace."

"How can you possibly propose $500 million in incentives paid to executives when asking the line workers to take an 80 or 90 percent cut? It ought to be against the law," Bayh said Tuesday in an address before a United Auto Workers political action conference in Washington (Associated Press).

Bayh used gentler, kinder language in a Jan. 12 letter to Delphi CEO Steve Miller. "Circumstances, like those of your company, and decency require that the highly paid not seek to enrich themselves on the backs of middle class working families," he wrote.

It's been a week of tough talk for Indiana's junior senator, who reportedly continues to trail New York Senator Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in polls for the 2008 Democratic candidate race.

On Feb. 2nd, Bayh garnered significant national news attention by sharply criticizing President Bush on national security, citing "stunning incompetence" in Iraq.

As reported in HPR's Daily Wire of Feb. 3, Bayh said a "tough and smart" approach to Iraq would "establish benchmarks for success, a timeline for progress, accountability for results and candor about how we are doing."

Labor has been generous to Bayh's campaigns over the years, according to data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks money in politics.

During the 2004 campaign cycle, contributions from labor groups accounted for 13 percent - $276,000 - of the senator's total PAC receipts. Business contributed $1.7 million to constitute the campaign's single largest block of PAC funding (

In the current election cycle, labor's contributions account for less than 10 percent, while the business share has increased to better than 85 percent at $903,000. Bayh's campaign has raised a total of $10.3 million, with $9.6 million as cash on hand.

According to Project Vote Smart, Bayh votes supported the interest of the UAW 100 percent in 2003 and 2004. On the votes that the National Association of Manufacturers considered to be the most important in 2003-2004, he voted their preferred position 41 percent of the time. For the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the figure for 2004 was 65 percent and in 2003 it was 43 percent.

The senator's official website states that "Bayh believes America should advance an ambitious, market-opening trade agenda, and he has built a strong record of supporting free trade," and the Libertarian Cato Institute rates him 58 percent on trade barrier issues, compared with Clinton's 35 or Republican Sen. Richard Lugar's 95.

Last July, he joined other potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidates to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, the first time he had ever opposed a free trade agreement.

"This agreement contains a major loophole giving a free pass to foreign companies that ignore international labor standards," Bayh, who earned a degree in business economics at Indiana University, told the Indianapolis Star. "Our trade policy needs more enforcement, not less."

Bayh's tough talk may be turning the heads of some who had earlier discounted him as viable Presidential timber.

Patrick Doherty, senior editor at, writes that he was most impressed when Bayh veered from script during the Feb. 2 security speech while answering reporters' questions about China.

"[I]n that unscripted moment, Sen. Bayh showed that regardless of what his advisers were willing to put onto paper, the man himself may just see the bigger picture," Doherty says.

The UAW performance caught the attention of staff at ABC News' influential political blog, The Note: "For years, the rap on... Evan Bayh has been that the former DLC chair doesn't appreciate the synthesis of populist and DLC themes that Bill Clinton ran on in 1992.... But he certainly roused the United Auto Workers on Tuesday with his call for tougher trade rule enforcement on China."

Maybe, just maybe, Evan Bayh is beginning to refute the naysayers - those who believe he has yet to invent and develop a name for himself. He has a long row to hoe if he intends to break from the pack, however. The list of Democrats running for president numbers 10 so far, with some observers reporting Bayh a distant second to Clinton.

The UAW invited Clinton, who is up for re-election this year, to deliver the convention's closing address on Wednesday. News accounts indicate she found a warm reception and pleased the crowd with a harshly worded 30-minute speech that jabbed Republicans on security and trade.