U.S. Senate candidate Evan Bayh, a Democrat, is focusing on trade in the last weeks of the election, trying to paint Republican Rep. Todd Young as misaligned with the best interests of the Hoosier worker—but Bayh also has his weaknesses when it comes to trade.
Bayh’s camp has attacked Young for taking donations from United Technologies Electronic Controls, the parent company of Carrier Corp., which stunned the state earlier this year with its announcement that it would move manufacturing from an Indianapolis Carrier plant and a Huntington UTEC plant to Mexico, eliminating more than 2,000 jobs here.
United Technologies PAC gave Young $2,500 in 2015, before its outsourcing announcement. And Alexander Housten, a managing director with UTEC, gave Young $500 in April, afterward. UTEC has given Young a total of $17,500 during his time in Congress.
But Bayh, who previously held the Senate seat, also took donations from another Indiana company that was outsourcing Hoosier jobs at the time.
Carmel-based insurance company Conseco announced in April 2001 that it planned to move 800 jobs to India, expecting to save millions on labor.
Bayh’s campaign accepted more than $8,250 in donations from five Conseco officials in 2001 and 2002—most just a few days after Conseco’s announcement it would move the jobs overseas. The company, now known as CNO Financial Group Inc., ended up seeking bankruptcy protection shortly after its announcement and the off-shoring never occurred.
CNO Financial Group has given Bayh more than $99,000 in campaign contributions over his U.S. Senate career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
When asked by IBJ whether Bayh's acceptance of the Conseco donations from 2001 and 2002 diluted his criticism of Young, Bayh spokesman Ben Ray said the Democrat would donate the amount of money in Conseco donations to charity. As of Friday, Ray said the Bayh campaign had yet to select a charity for the donation.
“The contributions from Conseco executives are 15 years old, but are being sent to a charity supporting workers like those who lost their jobs at Carrier,” Ray told IBJ in a statement. “We call on congressman Young to do the same with his contribution from Carrier, and to stop supporting the tax breaks that let companies deduct shipping jobs overseas from their taxes.”
"It's nice that Evan Bayh wants to return this money 14 years later when the press comes calling,” said Young spokesman Jay Kenworthy. “But he can't return the luxury flights in private jets and lavish lifestyle that characterized his time in the Senate."
In the last weeks of the campaign, Bayh has launched a web series called “Todd’s Troublesome Trade Timeline,” specifically calling out Republican Young for a “politically transparent flip flop” on his support for the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would affect U.S. trade with a dozen countries in the Pacific Rim.
While Young now says he opposes the TPP as negotiated by Obama, Bayh pointed to earlier contradictory statements, such as his comments to the Indiana Soybean Alliance in April that he was a “staunch supporter of free trade agreements” and that “enactment of the TPP agreement would be a vital step in expanding markets to U.S. producers.”
“Congressman Todd Young is now trying to fool Hoosiers into believing he opposes the massive trade deal he praised just months ago—proving there is nothing Todd Young won’t do or say to get elected,” Bayh’s campaign stated.
Meanwhile, Young’s campaign is finishing out the campaign by continuing attacks on Bayh for what he describes as selling out Hoosiers during his last year in the U.S. Senate. "Evan Bayh had his chance and he chose money over you,” Young has written in a few Twitter posts.
Bayh has faced criticism in the U.S. Senate campaign for spending time during his last year in office looking for a private sector job, according to reporting by the Associated Press, "even as he cast votes on issues of interest to his future corporate bosses."