A critic of speaking fees while in office, Senator Feingold cashed in after two decades in D.C. — to the tune of over $100,000.
During his nearly two decades in Washington, D.C., former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold fashioned himself as Mr. Clean — a lawmaker not interested in the perks of public office.
Feingold, for instance, was a regular critic of honorariums, fees paid by special interests in exchange for speeches to the group’s members.
The Middleton Democrat praised the 1989 ban on speaking fees for federal employees, including members of Congress. And when officials weighed a 2000 measure that would have allowed federal judges to give paid talks, he led the charge against it.
“It is increasingly difficult to find areas of public life that have not been invaded by private interests with deep pockets and policy agendas,” Feingold wrote for the Chicago Tribune. “And that’s why it is more important than ever that we maintain the ban on judicial honoraria.”
But Feingold didn’t hesitate to trade in on his time as a D.C. lawmaker by taking such fees as soon as he could.
From February 2012 to June 2013 — a window during which he was out of public office — Feingold collected $103,117 to make appearances on or give speeches to universities, think tanks and a liberal TV talk show, “Real Time with Bill Maher,” according to federal filings.
Of those speeches, half were given at colleges and universities, with his biggest payday being a $12,000 honorarium from Arizona State University in October 2012. But Feingold also was paid to share his thoughts and ideas with liberal groups — such as the Alliance for Justice and the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment — law groups, a synagogue and a Chicago humanities festival.
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, one of the louder critics of speaking fees for government officials, still hasn’t answered his critics’ calls to release the full amount of honoraria the Democrat has pocketed.
Wisconsin’s junior U.S. senator, is running in a rematch against Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.
Since his defeat in 2010, Feingold has made a living as a professor, author, State Department employee and as the face of a progressive political action committee roundly criticized as a slush fund for the career politician.
Now, Feingold is feeling the heat of his own hypocrisy on the honorarium question.
In September 2000, Feingold wrote an opinion piece for the Chicago Tribune attacking a bill that allowed federal judges to accept the same kinds of speaking fees the former senator has collected.
“Are Americans comfortable allowing federal judges to accept $1,000, $5,000 or $10,000 speaking fees from corporations and other wealthy interests that may have cases pending in federal court? Within weeks, this question could change from a hypothetical query to a real crisis of judicial integrity,” Feingold wrote at the time.