RUSTHOVEN: Jacobs was a true public servant

January 4, 2014
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

RusthovenThe death of former congressman Andrew Jacobs Jr. is a sad year-end note for all who knew him during and after his decades of service.

Jacobs represented central Indiana in the House from 1965 to 1997, with a single interruption when future Indianapolis mayor Bill Hudnut defeated him in 1972. Jacobs returned the favor in 1974 and never lost again.

Jacobs was born into a political family and bore a famous local name. His father, Andrew Jacobs Sr., served a term in Congress himself and was a longtime Marion County judge.

The independent-minded Andy Sr. did not shy from political battles. Relations between him and Indianapolis Star and News publisher Eugene Pulliam became so embittered that neither paper would publish the senior Jacobs’ name or picture. Once, when Andy Sr. happened to be in a photo the papers couldn’t avoid using, the caption called him “unidentified man.”

Andy Jr. matched his father’s independent streak, and achieved greater prominence. Yet he seemed cast from a different mold—different from his father, and from almost anyone else in politics.

One example was his attitude toward money. Jacobs refused speaking fees. He refused PAC contributions. He often told potential contributors to put their checkbooks away.

Jacobs prized his independence, and didn’t think he needed the money. He was right. In 1986, his GOP opponent outspent him $540,000 to $8,000. Jacobs won with 58 percent of the vote.

Jacobs was frugal with taxpayer dollars, too. Unlike many in his party, he was a notorious fiscal hawk. When accused of being a penny-pincher, he would respond, “No—I’m a billions-pincher.”

Unlike many in both parties, Jacobs practiced what he preached—far more so than he needed to. He was a Marine Corps veteran, wounded in combat in Korea. Yet while serving in Congress, Jacobs would not accept veteran’s disability checks.

Jacobs also refused congressional pay raises. He would not even use the “franking” privilege, under which senators and representatives pay no postage for official mail (“official” being a highly elastic concept in many congressional offices).

One of my favorite Andy Jacobs quotes came when he sent back a color television from the House media office, saying, “I know of no good reason for viewing Tip O’Neill in living color.” What Republican could disagree?

Jacobs was also a man of uncommon courtesy and civility—in my experience, unfailingly so—in a field where discourtesy and incivility have become commonplace. He could disagree, even forcefully so, without being disagreeable. In my every encounter with him, his sincerity and good humor (including about himself) stood out. Here as well, and to his credit, he was outside the political norm.

No one is likely to list Andy Jacobs among the giants in congressional history. He held no major leadership post. No major enactment bears his name. Successive Republican challengers would increasingly charge, with increasing frustration, that Jacobs hadn’t accomplished much.

Most of his constituents disagreed. They knew their congressman, and they liked him. His convictions were clear, and were clearly his own. His honesty and integrity were givens. He represented no interest but theirs, based on what he believed best served those interests. He treated people with dignity and respect.

To those who kept re-electing him, these were accomplishments enough. This Republican thinks they were pretty much right. I’ll miss him.•


Rusthoven, an Indianapolis attorney and graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, was associate counsel to President Reagan. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............