After years of criticizing “dark money,” national media is reporting Senator Feingold has flip-flopped — even attending a rally with a left-wing D.C. group whose dark money arm runs attack ads in Wisconsin.
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has repeatedly criticized so-called dark-money forces but held a rally over the weekend with the League of Conservation Voters, which is not disclosing the source of many of its ads, according to his opponent, Sen. Ron Johnson.
A Johnson aide accused Feingold of “hypocrisy” for the event with the environmental group, which has been dubbed a “dark-money heavyweight.” Johnson, a Republican, defeated Feingold in 2010, and the two will square off again in November.
“Senator Feingold continues to say one thing and do another,” said Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger. “After repeatedly railing against ‘dark money’ he’s gladly showing his face with a group whose dark money arm is fueling his bid to claw his way back to Washington.”
Former Sen. Russ Feingold failed to denounce six groups associated with dark money – which he has strongly criticized in the past – for running campaign ads against his opponent, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.
The Environmental Defense Action Fund, VoteVets.Org, NARAL Pro-Choice, Planned Parenthood, American Bridge and the League of Conservation Voters spent more than $2 million in attack ads against the incumbent by the end of 2015. Feingold is currently running against Johnson in a bid to return to the Senate.
Feingold even held a rally with the League of Conservation Voters – a group dubbed “one of the nation’s strongest ‘dark money’ forces” in politics by The Center of Public Integrity – in late May.
It appears the former senator has completely changed his tune on third-party groups. Back in 1998, he told the National Democratic Senatorial Committee to “get the hell out of my state” after offering to dump $425,000 into an ad campaign for him.
“He used to be against these groups and now he’s relying on them,” a source close to the Johnson camp told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “This from the guy who built his whole reputation on campaign finance reform and adamantly being opposed to these types of groups. Having their support is totally new for him in 2016.”
Feingold, who had previously spent 18 years in Washington, recently attended a rally with the D.C.-based League of Conservation Voters, a far-left environmental group that “works to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities.”
The group began running some of the earliest ads in the Wisconsin senate race hitting Sen. Ron Johnson, who defeated Feingold in 2010. The first ad, titled “7000 Wisconsin” attempted to hit Johnson for his ties to “big oil.” The second ad—called “Disappear Wisconsin”—tried to paint the senator as indifferent to carbon pollution while pushing for President Obama’s Clean Coal Power plan.
Nearly $100,000 was spent to run the two television ads throughout the state. The League of Conservation Voters, which contains a dark-money arm, is not disclosing the source of who is funding their advertisements against Johnson.
Feingold said in 2011 that any Democrats who use anonymous sources with unlimited money, such at the League’s dark money arm, are “dancing with the devil.”
“Democrats shouldn’t be in the game of influencing elections with anonymous, unlimited money. It’s dancing with the devil,” he said at the time.
In addition to now allowing help from dark money groups, Feingold has also received hundreds of thousands in bundled lobbyist contributions.
“Senator Feingold continues to say one thing and do another. After repeatedly railing against ‘dark money’ he’s gladly showing his face with a group whose dark money arm is fueling his bid to claw his way back to Washington,” Johnson campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger said. “Senator Feingold apparently doesn’t care that this Washington, D.C., group’s job-killing agenda would hurt Wisconsin farmers and families—he’s only concerned about his own political ambition.”
Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Once during his 1998 re-election bid against then-Congressman Mark Neumann, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold famously told the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to “get the hell out of my state” when it ran a mere $425,000 in ads on his behalf.
in 2011, shortly after losing his U.S. Senate seat to Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh), Feingold said that Democrats who teamed up with Super PACs and other “dark money” groups were ‘dancing with the devil.”
If that’s the case, then Feingold isn’t just dancing with the devil these days, he’s bowing down in worship. After playing the patron saint of “Campaign Finance Reform” for 18 years, Team Feingold has fully embraced its dark (money) side. Not only have six far-left wing groups pouring in over $2 million on their behalf , but Feingold is openly appearing at rallies for fund raisers for them as well.
So far, the only answer the Feingold campaign consistently gives to charges of campaign finance hypocrisy is something akin to “That was then, this is now.”
What was also then was a sense of respect some conservatives had toward Feingold for sticking to his principles, even though they disagreed with him. In the waning days of the 1998 campaign, Feingold told the New York Times that ‘I’d rather be right than re-elected” when it came to campaign finance reform.
Now six years after his 2010 defeat to Johnson, Feingold is only determined to win at all cost; even if the price is his very soul.