After being fired by the people of Wisconsin in 2010, Senator Feingold has shown that he’ll do anything to get back to Washington — even break his career-defining promise to the people of Wisconsin.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Russ Feingold said Thursday he will not operate in this campaign by the pledge he made in past races to raise the majority of his money from Wisconsinites.
“Senator Feingold built his whole career on his campaign finance promises. Now, he’s breaking his promises,” Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said in a statement.
In Feingold’s first race in 1992, one of the promises he posted on his garage door was to “rely on Wisconsin citizens for most of my contributions.” At a Democratic primary debate that year, he said of that commitment, “I’m promising it for the future. … I’m saying that’s a pledge I am going to keep.”
The Democrat imposed the same limitation on himself in his next three contests, including the 2010 race, when he aired an ad reminding voters of his 1992 garage-door promises. He lost that race to Johnson.
According to a National Journal analysis of Feingold’s Federal Election Commission report and data provided by Feingold’s campaign, just over 43 percent of Feingold’s money came from Wisconsin donors. That’s not unusual in increasingly expensive Senate races. But it does fall short of Feingold’s long-held pledge to always raise a majority of his funds from Wisconsinites.
“Senator Feingold built his whole career on the issue of his campaign-finance-reform promises, but now after 25 years in politics he is breaking every promise he ever made to the people of Wisconsin,” said Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger. “He broke his own pledge.” Feingold introduced the pledge, to “rely on Wisconsin citizens for most of my contributions,” along with four others in his underdog 1992 campaign. Then a state senator taking on second-term Republican Sen. Bob Kasten, Feingold vowed not only to hold himself to that standard but to advocate for national legislation on the issue if elected. Asked at the time whether such a model was self-serving, since the young Senate candidate lacked his opponent’s national donor base, Feingold doubled down.
More than 20 years ago, when he was first running for U.S. Senate, Democrat Russ Feingold painted a list of promises on the garage door of his Middleton home.
Those 1992 vows — he called it a contract with Wisconsin voters — formed the basis of Feingold’s unusual “everyman” campaign. They were highlighted in memorable TV ads created by the late Steve Eichenbaum.
Among the promises: Feingold said he would “rely on Wisconsin citizens for most of my contributions.”
In May 2015, Feingold announced that he would challenge Johnson in 2016. Six weeks later, Feingold filed his first campaign finance report with the Federal Election Commission. It showed he had already raised about $2.3 million.
The National Journal reported Aug. 13, 2015 that it had examined Feingold’s individual contributions and determined the majority of the money had come from out of state.
The more-than-half-from-Wisconsin pledge is not a 1992 campaign relic. Feingold followed it in his re-election bids in 1998, 2004 and in 2010.
This time around it was clear early on that Feingold planned to run a different kind of campaign.
In four Senate campaigns, Feingold abided by the pledge he inscribed on his garage door: He would raise the majority of his campaign cash from Wisconsin residents.
Feingold said he was changing with the times, and is no longer bound by his previous pledge.
That’s a complete reversal. And a Full Flop.