IN THE NEWS: When the headline says it all: “Indiana congressman’s reputation… is hurting his Senate bid”

INDIANAPOLIS – The hits keep coming for Congressman Rokita, as in-state and national outlets both highlighted last week’s AP report about his brutal treatment of staff.

Getting straight to the point, USA TODAY claimed that Congressman Rokita’s treatment of the staff had already begun to hurt his campaign. That trouble might only increase, it continued, in light of potential ethics violations stemming from Congressman Rokita’s official staff possibly being obligated to help with campaign work. Meanwhile, Brian Howey looked today at the retaliatory leaks about Congressmen Messer and Rokita and has begun to wonder if they may even create an opportunity for another candidate to win the GOP’s primary.

From USA TODAYIndiana congressman’s reputation as a tough boss is hurting his Senate bid

Exhibit A in why it pays to be nice to underlings is Rep. Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican whose Senate bid has been hurt by stories about being a demanding boss.

Two weeks after Politico published the eight pages of instructions given to the aide assigned to drive Rokita around, the Associated Press reported Friday more details of what it’s like to work for him.

Former aides, who spoke to the Associated Press anonymously, described colleagues reduced to tears after Rokita yelled at them, pay cuts for small mistakes and a worker ordered to scrub clean Rokita’s vehicle because he complained of body odor from a volunteer driver.

Rokita, who has a reputation for high staff turnover in his congressional office and when he was Indiana secretary of state, told the Associated Press he demands excellence from both himself and his employees in the service of Hoosiers.

The Indiana Democratic Party pointed to former aides’ comments that many felt obligated to do volunteer political work as a potential ethics violation.

From Howey PoliticsRokita, Messer in war by press sequence

NASHVILLE, Ind. – Since Todd Rokita entered Congress in 2011, a noted trait of his operations was the staff revolving door. Chiefs of staff and communications directors, two of the more conspicuous posts in a congressional office, had a number of changes.

In the context of the U.S. Senate race Rep. Rokita entered last month, the long-speculated story was on his staffing challenges. That became a reality late last week when the Associated Press’s Brian Slodysko penned this lead: “Staffers in tears. Pay cuts for small mistakes. Aides who walked out of the office – and never came back. Working for four-term Republican Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana is an exacting job with long hours, made more difficult by a boss known for micromanaging and yelling at his staff, according to 10 former aides who spoke to The Associated Press. All but one of the former staffers spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern of retribution from the congressman.”

Both the Rokita and the campaign of U.S. Rep. Luke Messer have pointed the finger after unflattering stories at each other. It began earlier this summer when the AP reported the six-figure income Messer’s wife Jennifer made as a part-time attorney for the city of Fishers. There has been reporting on Messer’s residency, and his decision to move the family to Washington. It was only a matter of time before there would be retaliation, manifested by the Rokita staffing memo and the staff turnover.

Don’t expect this to let up. Any public official has some dirt and this is an intense battle for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The key question at this point is if Rokita and Messer keep targeting each other, will that provide a lane for Hill or perhaps State Rep. Mike Braun to exploit the negativity and win the nomination?

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