Bayh Is Back -- With A Bulging War Chest

By Emma Baccelieri

Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh starts his campaign with no shortage of resources and has the capacity to raise far more. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

When former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) retired from politics at the end of 2010, more than $10 million sat in his campaign account.

Now, after five years of work as a partner in a lobbying firm and an adviser for a private equity group, Bayh is mounting a bid to return to the Senate. News that he planned to run began spreading Monday, and Bayh made it official with an announcement Wednesday morning. And that $10 million? Almost all of it is available for his 2016 race.

In Bayh's time away from politics, he's spent close to $1 million of the $10.3 million that remained in his warchest, leaving him with almost $9.3 million as he gears up for 2016.

Shortly after leaving the Senate, Bayh gave more than $300,000 of his stash to the Indiana Democratic Party. He has also lent a hand to fellow Democrats in dozens of congressional races over the years. The rest of the $1 million has gone to taxes, travel costs and political consulting fees -- for more than a year, he made monthly payments of $2,000 to the firm led by Dan Parker, former head of the Indiana Democratic Party. The only other regular expense by his candidate committee? Holiday cards, which have run north of $5,000 each December and sometimes as much as $15,000. (He typically spent a comparable amount on cards, if not more, during his time in the Senate.)

Personal use of leftover campaign funds is is the only major limitation on how they're spent. Former lawmakers "can't pocket the money, but they can keep that committee open and that money in the bank for as long as they want," said Paul S. Ryan, deputy executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Because federal law does not require that contributions be earmarked for use in a specific election, all of the remaining money is open for Bayh to use in a new campaign, Ryan noted

The leftover money from 2010 puts Bayh at the top of the pack for 2016. Without doing any fundraising for the election, he already has more than twice as much as his likely opponent, Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who has $3.7 million in the bank. Only 14 other Senate candidates -- most of who have been aggressively fundraising for tight races or are household names such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- have more cash available than Bayh's $9.3 million.

Much of Bayh's stash was given by the industries he ended up in after leaving politics: finance and lobbying. Over the course of his time in the Senate, he received more than $1.8 million from the securities & investment industry ($4.6 million from the broader finance, real estate and insurance sector), and nearly $3 million from lawyers and lobbyists. From 2004 until Bayh stopped fundraising in 2010, Goldman Sachs was the company responsible for the largest chunk of his cash, with peer institutions CNO Financial Group, Morgan Stanley and the Carlyle Group also in his top 10.

He'll likely have little trouble raising additional funds from those and other sources this time around. For instance, there are the many lobbying clients of McGuireWoods, the firm where he's been ensconced (though not as a registered lobbyist); together they've paid the firm more than $5 million in each of the last two years. Companies and trade groups like Altria, the Distilled Spirits Council, Exxon Mobil, Southern Co. and the American Petroleum Institute, all of which are McGuireWoods clients, are accustomed to attempting to oil the hinges of a potential lawmaker's door with campaign contributions.

The leaders of Apollo Global Management, the financial firm Bayh has been advising, tend to lean to the right, but there are Democrats in its ranks who could ante up for Bayh. And they have the kind of resources that a pro-Bayh super PAC would welcome; the last time the former senator ran for office, these creatures didn't exist, but one will surely spring up quickly.

Of course, should he fail to bring in sufficient cash from other donors, Bayh could tap his personal wealth. When he left Congress, he was worth an estimated average $6.9 million, a figure that has surely increased with his lucrative post-Senate employment.