Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Lamentable Loss of Feingold:

In 1992, a State Senator from Wisconsin’s 27th District threw his hat into the ring, running against incumbent Republican Senator Bob Kasten (who had taken the seat from environmentalist Gaylord Nelson during the “Reagan Revolution” of 1980). He had earned the nomination by defeating millionaires Jim Moody and Joe Checota in the Democratic Primary.

As part of his grassroots campaign, Russ Feingold famously wrote his promises on his garage door:


1. I will rely on Wisconsin citizens for most of my contributions.

2. I will live in Middleton, Wisconsin. My children will go to school here and I will spend most of my time here in Wisconsin.

3. I will accept no pay raise during my six-year term in office.

4. I will hold a “Listening Session” in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties each year of my six-year term in office.

5. I will hire the majority of my Senate staff from individuals who are from Wisconsin or have Wisconsin backgrounds.

In his 1998 campaign for reelection Feingold put a self-imposed cap on his own campaign fundraising…limiting it to $3.8 million (one dollar for every Wisconsin citizen) and refused “soft money”. He also kept lobbyist groups from running pro-Feingold “issue ads”. These decisions set the tone for that election and put his Republican opponent, Mark Neumann in the position of making a show of also limiting his campaign to the same $3.8 million figure, but Neumann chose to NOT eschew the soft money. Thankfully Feingold prevailed.

In his 2004 race, after taking a good amount criticism from his party for having put his “seat at risk” in the ’98 campaign with his self-imposed funding cap, he did not set a cap this time. This decision, conversely, opened him up to accusations of “hypocrisy” from his opponent Tim Michels, as he spent almost $11 million in the campaign. However, Feingold was able to demonstrate that more than 90% of the funds came from Wisconsin residents giving an average of $60 and once again Feingold prevailed.

Until this year.

Millionaire Ron Johnson spent inordinate amounts of his own money to defeat Russ for his seat in the Senate. Millions of dollars were spent by Johnson himself, then millions more pumped into his campaign by various lobbies and PAC groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run attack ads against Feingold.

The primary attacks on Russ focused on two areas, the first of which was that he was a “career politician”. It seems that experience is a quality to be touted in a Republican (like Tom Petri who has been our representative in the House for 31 years), but a negative to be overcome for a Democrat.
The second false claim constantly made by Johnson was saying that Russ consistently voted along the party line. This is completely untrue. I have always said that in my opinion, although I may not have always agreed with every vote Russ has cast…the one thing that I could be confident of was that he was voting in the way that he honestly believed to be the best course…not because someone was paying him to vote that way.

The following are some of the votes where Senator Feingold differed from his party line:
  • Russ was the lone Democratic vote against the Motion to dismiss the impeachment case against President Clinton in order to give the prosecution “every reasonable opportunity” to prove the guilt of the accused.
  • He also went against his party when he stood against NAFTA and other so-called “free trade” agreements.
  • Russ was the lone vote against the “Patriot Act” in 2001 (as he actually READ the bill and believed that it infringed on Civil Liberties). He has since voted against reauthorization several times as his concerns were not addressed.
  • Russ angered his party when he voted for the confirmation of John Ashcroft as Attorney General and for John Roberts for the United States Supreme Court.
  • Russ voted against TARP and the banking industry/Wall Street bailout.
  • Five days after Obama’s inauguration, Feingold and Robert Byrd were the only Democrats to vote against confirmation of Timothy Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury.
  • He introduced a bill that bans lobbyists from giving gifts to senators and put serious controls on Senators using corporate gifts (like free use of corporate jets, etc.). Additionally, this bill blocked members of Congress and their staffers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving office.
  • He has been lauded by advocate groups like the conservative “Citizens Against Government Waste”, “Taxpayers for Common Sense” and the “Concord Coalition” for his efforts to cut pork barrel spending…though Johnson ran ads implying that Russ was part of the pork barrel problem.
  • Senator Feingold has returned over $70,000 in mid-term pay raises (as he vowed to back on that garage door), as well as returning excess money that is budgeted for operation of his Senate office but is not used due to his notorious frugality…he has returned over $3.2 million dollars to the U. S. Treasury in this way.
Feingold was one of 28 Senators who voted against the authorization that allowed George W. Bush to invade Iraq and was the first Senator to call for troop withdrawal timetables. Additionally, his efforts in favor of veterans prompted the National Association of County Veterans Service Officers to name him 2010 “Legislator of the Year”.

Russ worked across the aisle with John McCain on campaign finance reform which instituted many of the financial restrictions that he had imposed upon himself in his 1998 campaign regarding soft money and advocacy advertising. This provision was recently overturned by the “Citizens United” ruling earlier this year. This USSC decision prompted President Obama to mention the potential repercussions this ruling would have on our elective process during the State of the Union address, to which Justice Alito, sitting in the audience, pursed his lips, shook his head and said “That’s not true.” However, watching the vast sums of money pouring into the system and taking over the recent election demonstrates quite clearly who was being more truthful on that matter.



I am grateful to Russ Feingold for the following:

His staunch opposition to
  • The Iraq War
  • Exporting American jobs overseas
  • Social Security Privatization
  • Expanded Military Spending
  • The Patriot Act
  • Prayer in Schools 
And his constant commitment to:
  • Public Education
  • Gay Marriage
  • National Health Care
  • Women’s Reproductive Freedom
  • Immigration
  • Fair Trade
  • Civil Liberties
  • And other causes of social justice


“Gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy. . .”

“The proposed ban on civil unions and marriage is a mean-spirited attempt to divide Wisconsin and I indicated that it should be defeated.” ~ Senator Russ Feingold

Ron Johnson opposed the Recovery Act, which created more than 640,000 jobs here in Wisconsin. He also supports teaching creationism in schools, is opposed to equal marriage rights and believes in the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US military.  He is opposed to stem cell research and called scientists who attribute the climate crisis to man-made causes “crazy”.

Senator-elect Johnson, you have some VERY big shoes to fill and some very high standards to live up to…and all your money can’t buy that.


Also, apparently, even though the commercials his advocates ran on his behalf constantly referenced the old adage, "When you're in a hole, stop digging", apparently our Senator Elect NOW thinks that further "digging" is the way OUT.



Let me ask you one question…is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness? Do you think that it should?
I think you will find when your death takes its toll…
All the money you made will never buy back your soul.” ~ Bob Dylan






 “if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.”

~ John Stuart Mill – Considerations on Representative Government, 1861






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