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.


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