Senator Feingold is facing a full-blown email scandal with the State Department after breaking his campaign finance promises and creating a shadow campaign, Progressives United, to get back to Washington. He claims he had to change because of Citizens United, but the facts show he renewed his promises in 2010 – after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling – only abandoning them when he lost to Ron Johnson and began to plot his way back to Washington. Now he’s refusing to call on the State Department to release documents that would help clear up whether he broke federal law with his shadow campaign.
Nov. 3, 1991: 10-year Madison career politician Senator Feingold runs for U.S. Senate, promising to the people of Wisconsin he’ll raise more than half his money from them. He paints this and other promises on his garage door as part of his contract with the voters of Wisconsin.
Aug. 28, 1992: Senator Feingold says in a Democrat primary debate his promise was forever, saying “I’m making a pledge for the future.”
1990s and 2000s: Senator Feingold goes on to honor that pledge for three terms in Washington, building his career on his reputation for rejecting outside money, railing against lobbyists, and pushing for campaign finance reform. His legislative proposals include requiring that Senate candidates raise more than half their money from their home states, and restricting political action committees. He also once told outside groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to “get the hell out of my state” and declared he’d rather lose than accept outside help.
Jan. 21, 2010: The Supreme Court rules parts of Senator Feingold’s campaign finance reforms unconstitutional as part of the Citizens United ruling. Over the years his reforms have proven an abject failure.
September 2010: Senator Feingold renewed his garage door pledges in a TV ad, including his promise to raise more than half his money from Wisconsinites.
Feb. 16, 2011: Senator Feingold launches his own political action committee, Progressives United, even though he had proposed legislation to restrict PACs during his nearly two decades in Washington.
June 15, 2015: Progressives United, the political action committee Senator Feingold founded after previously being against PACs, is revealed tohave given only 5 percent of the money it raised to candidates and causes – with the rest going to line Feingold’s pockets, pay his future campaign staff, and more fundraising to build a national donor apparatus.
Aug. 13, 2015: Confronted with his new national fundraising apparatus, Senator Feingold announces he will no longer honor his promise saying “there is no hypocrisy.” He blames the Citizens United ruling, even though he had previously renewed the pledge in 2010, after Citizens United. He goes on to raise outside money using fundraising lists built by his shadow campaign, Progressives United.
As of the second quarter of 2016, Senator Feingold was raising about 70 percent of his money from out of state. He’s also collected more than $500,000 from lobbyist bundlers after years of railing against the influence of lobbyists, and is accepting help from dark money and Super PACs he still claims to be against.
August 30, 2016: Senator Feingold’s shadow campaign at Progressives United blows up into a full-on email scandal at the State Department. It was reported that Senator Feingold had a conversation with Jon Tester, head of the DSCC, about a potential campaign while he was still at the State Department, and had a shadow campaign operating during his time there – potential violations of federal law. Senator Feingold refuses to call on the State Department to release all of his emails and other public documents, as is required under federal law.