Evan Bayh and a never-ending series of disappointments

In February 2010, then-Sen. Evan Bayh (D) of Indiana announced he would retire at the end of his term. Though a fairly safe bet for re-election, Bayh said he was tired of the “strident partisanship” and “unyielding ideology” in Washington, and would instead seek “an honorable line of work.” He added he wanted to do something “worthwhile for society,” and mentioned possibly teaching and/or doing philanthropic work.

These notable sentiments didn’t last. Bayh left the Senate and soon after became a lobbyist. Despite decrying “strident partisanship,” he also signed on as a Fox News contributor. In his free time, he became a very well paid “adviser” to a huge public-equity firm.

As if this weren’t quite enough, Bayh has decided to add insult to injury.

As iWatch News’ Peter Stone reports, Bayh has signed on with one of the most corporate-friendly, anti-environment shops in all of Washington, DC: the US Chamber of Commerce. According to an internal memo penned by Chamber president Tom Donohue, Bayh, along with former Bush White House chief of staff Andy Card, are now part of the Chamber’s anti-regulation messaging team, doing “speeches, events, and media appearances at local venues.”

The Chamber’s hiring of Bayh, a big name in Washington circles, will only help its efforts to delay or kill new regulatory legislation in Congress. Indeed, Donohue’s memo touts how the Chamber has filed legal briefs to challenge the validity of President Obama’s health care reform bill; successfully delayed a new Securities and Exchange Commission rule on giving shareholders a say on corporate directors; unveiled plans to undermine the clout of the fledgling Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and delayed a rule forcing companies to disclose when they use conflict minerals from the Congo in their products. Bayh and Card, the memo says, will help the Chamber push this pro-corporate agenda in Washington and beyond.

I’m not sure what’s a bigger disappointment: Bayh’s Senate career or his post-Senate career. At this point, I’m leaning towards the latter.

To be sure, Bayh is free to do as he pleases. I’m sure the Chamber will pay him extremely well to undermine the public’s interests, and I don’t begrudge a guy for wanting to make a good living. But if Bayh wanted to cash in, did he really have to vow to seek “an honorable line of work” that would prove “worthwhile for society”?

On his way out, Bayh made himself out to look like some sort of hero. He envisioned coming home from a day of teaching and telling his wife, “Dear, do you know what we got done today? I’ve got this really bright kid in my class, and do you know what he asked me, and here’s what I told him, and I think I saw a little epiphany moment go off in his mind.”

But he never made it to the classroom.

Bayh is practically a caricature of what a sell-out looks like.