Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By: Christian Schneider
May 6, 2016
Look deep into former Sen. Russ Feingold’s eyes. Now listen to the beating of your own heart. You are getting sleepy — very, very sleepy.
When I snap my fingers, you will awake and have no memory of Feingold’s 18 years in the U.S. Senate. In fact, per his staff’s recent instructions to party leaders, you will no longer refer to him as “Senator Feingold,” you will only call him “Russ.” Further, you will forget that a thing called the “United States Senate” or the “federal government” even exists. (Yet despite this lack of basic civic knowledge you still won’t be tempted to vote for Donald Trump.)
When you wake up, you will forget Feingold’s decades of posturing about running “clean campaigns” and “keeping money out of politics.” You will ignore the fact that Feingold set up his own political action committee, Progressives United, to serve as a slush fund to pay staffers while he waited to regain his seat in 2016.
While Progressives United’s stated goal was “directly and indirectly supporting candidates who stand up for our progressive ideals,” it appears the only real candidate it supported was Sen. Russ Feingold. The PAC only shelled out about 5% of its funds to candidates between 2011 and 2015, with 90% dedicated to fund raising and paying staffers that would eventually land on Feingold’s current campaign staff. Feingold himself drew a $77,000 salary from both the PAC and its nonprofit companion.
But when you regain consciousness, you will have no recollection of any of this. Nor will you recall Feingold’s past statements condemning lobbyist influence, as he has now accepted $360,000 in bundled lobbyist contributions. (Last November, Feingold held a fund raiser at Washington, D.C.’s 201 Bar, a place he once derided as a hotbed of lobbyists trying to buy influence.)
This newfound love affair with lobbyists has allowed the once-vocal enemy of money in politics to outraise incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, as Feingold did in 2010, when he lost to Johnson.
You will forget the famous pledge Feingold made on his garage door to always accept most of his campaign contributions from Wisconsinites; now Feingold says such a pledge is “a rule that has no relationship to reality.”
When Feingold touts his “Fiscal Fitness” plan, you will have no recollection that many of the proposals contained within are reheated, decades-old ideas Feingold wasn’t able to pass the first 18 years he served in the Senate. For instance, a cornerstone of his new plan is ending automatic pay raises for members of Congress — an idea Feingold first pitched nearly 20 years ago, which he failed to pass even when his own party controlled Congress and the presidency.
You won’t remember that Feingold’s current plan is basically just a microwaved version of the plan he first pitched in 1992 that included hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases and stiff defense cuts. He even goes back to criticizing corporate jets, a gimmick he rolled out in 2006. In fact, Feingold’s plan is so old, if it were a scotch, it would be worth so much money it could actually donate to Progressives United.
But this memory-erasing session doesn’t even need to go back that far. While touting himself as a fiscal hawk, Feingold in 2009 supported the $787 billion stimulus package that served only to stimulate government spending and well-connected special interests.
Sure, Republicans would like everyone to forget what’s happened in their party for the past six months. But Feingold would sure appreciate it if you’d blank on the last 24 years. He’s assuming your birth certificate reads, “Date of Birth: Yesterday.”