WASHINGTON -- One week after Rep. Brad Ellsworth went down to defeat in the race against Dan Coats to fill the seat of retiring Senator Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), The New York Times ran an A1 story about the work Coats did to help Cooper Industries, a Texas corporation that moved its headquarters to Bermuda to evade US taxes.
"He was annoyed the Times chose to wait until after the election to write that story," Jon Kott, a spokesman for Ellsworth, told The Huffington Post. "This is something he said for eight months and then a week after [Coats] gets elected..."
The article revealed that Coats served as co-chairman of a lobbyist team for Cooper Industries in 2007, working "behind the scenes" to block legislation in the Senate that would have closed a tax loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the company.
It's surprising more wasn't made of the issue, since closing offshore loopholes and preventing American jobs from going overseas were central talking points for Democrats this election season.
"We did make this an issue during the campaign and the Indiana media was somewhat receptive but it didn't seem to gain traction," Kotts told HuffPost in a follow-up email.
A review of the attack-ad website Lobbyist Dan Coats shows it doesn't include the words: "U.S. jobs," "loophole," "headquarters," "Bermuda," or "Cooper."
Local media, meanwhile, wasn't overly concerned about Coats's lobbying past.
An article in The Indianapolis Star analyzing ads aimed at Dan Coats's lobbying efforts concluded that his lobbyist past was beside the point: "There's no question that Coats' lobbying resume is a liability. But this ad tries to raise questions about Coats' anti-abortion credentials. The nation's largest anti-abortion group, National Right to Life, apparently has no doubts about Coats. It endorsed him."
The paper did note Coats served as co-chairman of the Washington government relations office of King & Spaulding. And it was briefly noted that as a lobbyist he had three dozen clients, including corporate giants Google, Home Depot and General Electric, which often have legislative issues before Congress.
But a lack of substantive public debate on Coats's past as a lobbyist deprived Ellsworth of the chance to make the election a referendum on corporate influence in Washington.
For instance, when, during their first debate in October, Ellsworth attacked Coats for his time as a lobbyist, Coats dismissed the charge as a petty distraction.
"He has totally mischaracterized what I have done," said Coats of Ellsworth. "It's a tired old Washington game of if you don't want to talk about you did in Washington, if you don't want to talk about what you're party has done for the last two years, you put out a distraction."
Brian Howey, an Indiana political analyst and publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, told HuffPost the lobbyist label didn't stick on Coats because voters still thought of him as an esteemed senator and ambassador.
"Many Hoosier voters remembered Dan Coats as a respected, conservative U.S. Senator. They saw him surface as ambassador to Germany in the context of Sept. 11 and then again as a key handler during the Roberts and Alito Supreme Court nominations. Older voters remembered Coats as passing and getting President Clinton to sign his line item veto legislation," Howey told HuffPost on Monday. "Cooper Industries might be a point of contention with many voters here, who know of the Cooper Tire company."
Still, Howey said that playing up Cooper Industries would not have been enough to tilt the race in Ellsworth's favor.
"I just don't think Cooper would have made much of an impact," Howey said in an email Monday afternoon. "Bank of America was probably a more notable boogeyman."