U.S. Senate candidate Evan Bayh said on Tuesday that he wants Congress to prohibit lawmakers from promoting themselves with taxpayer-funded mailings while also barring them from collecting a paycheck during a government shutdown or prolonged budget stalemate.
The Democratic former Indiana governor and U.S. Senator labeled them "common sense" proposals, but also used them to criticize his opponent, U.S. Rep. Todd Young.
"It is true that he is one of the top users of (taxpayer-funded) mail. It's also true that he voted to close the government," Bayh said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Bayh shook up the Indiana race when he came out of political retirement in July run against Young for the Senate seat held by retiring Republican Dan Coats. His contest with Young could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Democrats need to make a net gain of four seats to take control if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency.
Until now, Bayh has tried to avoid direct mention of his opponent, relying instead on a well-financed series of negative ads targeting Young.
In contrast, Young has repeatedly launched personal attacks, going so far as to call Bayh "a fundamentally flawed person" during a recent news conference. Bayh has been criticized for leaving the U.S. Senate in 2011 to take high-paying jobs with a law firm that specializes in lobbying and with a private-equity firm that received a record fine for misleading investors.
He's also come under fire for casting a critical vote for the Affordable Care Act and for owning two high-end homes in Washington and a luxury condo in Florida while maintaining ownership of a modest condo in Indianapolis that he's rarely visited since leaving the state.
On Monday, shortly before former President George W. Bush headlined a fundraiser on his behalf, Young said the race was tightening and declared that he has "momentum."
Bayh is hitting back and his campaign points to Young's use of the congressional mailings, while also questioning Young's pledge to forego a paycheck during the 2013 government shutdown.
At the time, Republicans in Congress refused to approve an increase in nation's borrowing authority unless major changes were made to President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Democrats resisted and the government ground to a halt until Republicans caved.
During the shutdown dozens of lawmakers said they would forego a paycheck during the shutdown, even though the U.S. Constitution explicitly requires that they be paid. Many donated their paychecks to charity.
"You'd have to ask him whether he took his pay or not." Bayh said of Young.
A statement from Young's campaign did not address if he collected pay and his use of congressional mailing.
Young spokesman Jay Kenworthy said the congressman "appreciates Evan Bayh finally coming around to joining him on these issues," but took aim at Bayh's post-Senate work for companies that had legislation before Congress, adding that if Bayh "really wants to clean up Washington, he should start by helping to stem the influence of special interests."
Congressional records show that since Young took office in 2011 he has spent more than $270,000 on the taxpayer financed mailers, which are used to highlight lawmakers' work in Washington. Those records show Young also spent more than $200,000 paying consultants who specialize in the mailings.
That's more than the other members of the Indiana delegation have spent since 2010.
"This is stuff coming unsolicited from members of Congress designed primarily to make themselves look good," said Bayh, who says he did not send out taxpayer-funded office mailings while in Congress.