Russ Feingold

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Russ Feingold previously served as a Senator for Wisconsin

Russell Dana Feingold, a Democrat, is a former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, having served January 1993 to January 2011. He was one of four Minority Deputy Whips.[1]

Record and controversies

General information about important bills and votes for can be found in Congresspedia's articles on legislation. You can add information you find on how Russ Feingold voted by clicking the "[edit]" link to the right and typing it in. Remember to cite your sources!

H.R. 3590 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (health care reform)

On December 9, 2009, Senator Feingold was one of ten Democratic Senators to reach what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called a “broad agreement”[1]on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The discussion focused on abandoning or greatly narrowing the public health insurance option.

Feingold Seeks Strong Public Option in Health Care Reform

In exchange, people 55-64 would be able to buy in to Medicare and Medicaid eligibility would be expanded to people within 150 percent of the federal poverty line. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office released a statement on the compromise:

"I asked Senators Schumer and Pryor to work with some of the most moderate and most progressive members of our diverse caucus, and tonight they have come to a consensus. 
It is a consensus that includes a public option and will help ensure the American people win in two ways: one, insurance companies will face more competition, and two, the American people will have more choices. I know not all 10 Senators in the room agree on every single detail of this, nor will all 60 members of my caucus. But I know we all appreciate the hard work that these progressives and moderates have done to move this historic debate forward. I want to thank Senators Schumer, Pryor, Brown, Carper, Feingold, Harkin, Landrieu, Lincoln, Nelson and Rockefeller for working together for the greater good and never losing sight of our shared goal: making it possible for every American to afford to live a healthy life. As is long-standing practice, we do not disclose details of any proposal before the Congressional Budget Office has a chance to evaluate it. We will wait for that to happen, but in the meantime, tonight we are confident." [2]

Iraq War

Feingold voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Opposition to President Bush's troop "surge" in Iraq

In early February of 2007, Feingold, as well as Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) threatened to oppose a newly drafted nonbinding resolution opposing George W. Bush's plans of troop escalation in Iraq, claiming that the language of the resolution was "weak." Both senators, however, supported an earlier draft, sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.). The newer draft was the result of bipartisan discussion and compromise in attempt to ensure that the resolution would pass.

Main article: Congressional actions regarding President Bush’s 2007 proposed troop “surge” in Iraq

Iraq War deadline bill

After President Bush threatened to veto the supplemental bill calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised to support a bill sponsored by Sen. Feingold which would impose a strict deadline for U.S. troop removal. Specifically, it requires the following:

  • The president shall promptly transition the mission of United States forces in Iraq to the following limited purposes:
    • Conducting targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
    • Providing security for United States infrastructure and personnel.
    • Training and equipping Iraqi security services.
  • The president shall commence the safe, phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq in no more than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this act.
  • No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008.

On May 16, 2007, the measure was defeated in the Senate, 29-67.

Main article: Sen. Feingold measure to end funding for the Iraq War in 2008 (S.AMDT.1098)

When leaders in both chambers announced their intention to introduce funding bills without timetables for troop withdrawal, Feingold immediately criticized the decision. He stated:

"Under the President’s Iraq policies, our military has been over-burdened, our national security has been jeopardized, and thousands of Americans have been killed or injured. Despite these realities, and the support of a majority of Americans for ending the President’s open-ended mission in Iraq, congressional leaders now propose a supplemental appropriations bill that does nothing to end this disastrous war. I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq."

Main article: Congressional actions to end the Iraq War in the 110th Congress

Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007

When the Senate went to conference committee on the Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007 after the House passed similar lobbying and transparency legislation in several other bills, Sen. Feingold, who sought to extend the "revolving door" time period from one year to two years, asked to be on the conference committee to pursue those reforms. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) denied Feingold's request. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.), another major champion of lobbying reform, may be included in the conference committee, but his presidential campaign schedule may affect his ability to do so effectively. Many lobbying reform advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Democracy 21, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, aware that the make up of the conference committee would be crucial in determining the final outcome of the legislation, were disappointed over the announcement.

Main article: Legislative Transparency and Accountability Act of 2007

Patriot Act

Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act, which, he said, infringed upon citizens' civil liberties. Many at the time predicted his political career was over, but a majority of Wisconsin residents had little problem with his vote. Later, as public opinion turned against certain portions of the Act, his vote became a major selling-point for his re-election campaign.

The Patriot Act was recently up for renewal. Feingold led a bipartisan coalition of Senators that includes Lisa Murkowski, Ken Salazar, Larry Craig, Dick Durbin, and John Sununu to remove some of the act's more controversial provisions. Feingold led a lonely filibuster against the act but several key Republicans, including Sununu and Craig, reached an agreement with the White House in early February 2006.

On March 2, 2006, the revised Patriot Act passed the Senate. There were only ten "no" votes which came from Jim Jeffords, Feingold, Robert Byrd, Daniel Akaka, Jeff Bingaman, Tom Harkin, Patrick Leahy, Carl Levin, Patty Murray and Ron Wyden. ("Patriot Act compromise passes Senate, awaits House vote," The Associated Press, March 2, 2006).

Campaign finance

McCain-Feingold bill

Feingold is perhaps best known for his work alongside Republican Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), better-known as the McCain-Feingold bill, which took the two almost seven years to pass. In 2001, Feingold sponsored BCRA with Sen. McCain in the Senate and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) in the House. Also known as the McCain-Feingold bill in the Senate, the BCRA banned "soft money" from being contributed to federal or state candidates and national, state, and local political parties. BCRA also prohibited non-partisan "issue ads" funded by soft money from corporations and labor unions - those referring to candidates for federal election without expressly advocating their election or defeat -- in the 60 days prior to a general election, or 30 days prior to a primary election. It also required the disclosure of sources of finance for "electioneering communications" in excess of $10,000 per year, and raised the legal limits of hard money that could be raised.

Main article: Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002

On July 14, 2005, Feingold introduced a bill to the Senate that would ban lobbyists from giving gifts to senators and impose a $50,000 fine for violating the ban; force lawmakers to sign statements saying that lobbyists did not pay their travel expenses; forbid lawmakers from traveling on corporate jets; bar congressmen, staffers, and executive branch officials from serving as lobbyists for two years after leaving office; and require that lobbying reports be disclosed on a quarterly, rather than semi-annual, basis. The bill is the Senate version of a bill by Congressmen Marty Meehan (D-MA), who co-wrote the House version of McCain-Feingold, and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). Neither version has yet come to a vote. The Feingold-McCain bill was initially waiting completion of McCain hearings on the issue, but the Jack Abramoff scandal has put it in the spotlight, along with several other more recent reform proposals.

Public financing of elections

On January 30, 2007, Feingold, along with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced the Presidential Funding Act of 2007 (S.436), an attempt to update public financing of election laws. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Raise spending limits for the presidential primary and general election.
  • Increase the amount of public matching funds available during the primary process.
  • Allow earlier access to public funds in the primary process.
  • Provide additional funds to publicly financed candidates who are significantly outspent by privately financed candidates.
  • Increase the check-off from $3 to $10 for individuals and $6 to $20 for couples.
  • Prohibit national parties from raising or spending soft money for party nominating conventions.
Main article: Public financing of elections (U.S.)

Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act

Sen. Feingold, along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sponsored the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2007, which would require senators to file their campaign finance reports electronically to the Federal Election Commission. Currently reports are disseminated in paper form often long after they are initially filed, preventing voters from obtaining financial disclosure information in a timely fashion. On April 17, 2007, Sens. Feinstein and Feingold brought the bill to the floor for a unanimous consent motion. Upon asking for unanimous consent on this seemingly non-controversial bill, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) objected to the bill for an anonymous senator from the Republican side. This anonymous objection amounted to a senator placing a “secret hold” on the bill, effectively stopping it. Despite efforts to determine who the anonymous hold was, when the Senators attempted again to bring the bill to the floor for unanimous consent, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) registered another anonymous objection from the Republican side, blocking it again. As of yet, the bill has not been allowed to proceed.

Main article: Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2007

Government spending

Feingold is also a well-known advocate for reductions in pork barrel spending and corporate welfare. Citizens Against Government Waste, the Concord Coalition, and Taxpayers for Common Sense, three large, nonpartisan organizations dedicated to those causes, have repeatedly given him awards, words of praise, and endorsements for his actions.[2]

Bush Censure

2006 censure effort

Feingold favors censure for President George W. Bush in what Feingold terms "warrantless wiretapping of Americans on U.S. soil." In his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On the Call To Censure the President on March 31, 2006, he stated:

"We can fight terrorism without breaking the law. The rule of law is central to who we are as a people, and the President must return to the law. He must acknowledge and be held accountable for his illegal actions and for misleading the American people, both before and after the program was revealed. If we in the Congress don't stand up for ourselves and for the American people, we become complicit in his law breaking. A resolution of censure is the appropriate response – even a modest approach.",[3]

Feingold has little support from his Senate colleagues. "Most Democrats are nervous, if not dismayed, by Feingold's election-year proposal," the San Francisco Gate reported.[4]

2007 move to censure Bush and Cheney

In July, 2007, Feingold once again moved to censure President Bush, this time also moving to censure Vice President Cheney and others. Feingold argued that censure would:

[Signal] that a co-equal branch of government stood up and held to account those who violated the principles on which this nation was founded.[5]

Feingold also argued that:

Censure is about holding the administration accountable. Congress needs to formally condemn the President and members of the administration for misconduct before and during the Iraq war, and for undermining the rule of law at home.[6]

Feingold planned to introduce two measures, one addressing the administration's conduct leading up to the Iraq war, and the other focusing on domestic issues like wiretapping.[7]

Main article: Feingold resolutions for the censure of George W. Bush

Gun issues

Feingold has a mixed record on gun rights and gun control issues, sometimes voting in favor of gun control legislation, while at other times voting to expand gun rights. In 2004, he was one of only six Democrats in the Senate to vote against reauthorizing the federal assault weapons ban. In 2002, he voted in favor of allowing airline pilots to carry firearms in cockpits. He has spoken out in support of the interpretation that the Second Amendment pertains to an individual right to own firearms, and in opposition to proposals for handgun bans and mandatory firearms registration. On the other hand, he has consistently voted in favor of bills to require background checks for firearms purchases at gun shows, and to require that handguns be sold with trigger locks. In March 2004, he explained his position in a speech on the Senate floor:

"I have never accepted the proposition that the gun debate is a black and white issue, a matter of 'you're with us, or you're against us.' Instead, I have followed what I believe is a moderate course, faithful to the Constitution and to the realities of modern society. I believe that the Second Amendment was not an afterthought, that it has meaning today and must be respected. I support the right to bear arms for lawful purposes — for hunting and sport and for self-protection. Millions of Americans own firearms legally and we should not take action that tells them that they are second-class citizens or that their constitutional rights are under attack. At the same time, there are actions we can and should take to protect public safety that do not infringe on constitutional rights."[8]

Reparations for Japanese Latin Americans

Feingold cosponsored The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act in the 110th Congress which would establish a commission that would determine the facts and circumstances involving the relocation, internment and deportation of Japanese Latin Americans.[9]

Main article: Redress for Japanese Latin Americans/ U.S. legislation#Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act of 2007



Feingold was born March 2, 1953,in Janesville, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in 1975, a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He went to Magdalen College at the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in 1977, where he earned another Bachelor of Arts, and upon returning to the U.S. attended Harvard Law School, graduating with a law degree with honors in 1979.[10]

He was a Practicing Attorney in Madison, Wisconsin, from 1979 to 1985 at Foley & Lardner and La Follette & Sinykin. In 1982 he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate where he served until his election to the United States Senate.[11] In 1987, he joined the "Bowtie Brigade," a coalition of grassroots activists and local-level politicians who backed the presidential candidacy of Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, who would later become a mentor to Feingold during the early days of his senate career.

Senate Elections

Feingold's senatorial career began in 1992 with a surprising victory over incumbent Republican Senator Bob Kasten. Feingold, who had little name recognition in the state and was campaigning in a primary against a pair of millionaire opponents, adopted several proposals to gain the electorate's attention. The most memorable of these was a series of five promises written on Feingold's garage door in the form of a contract.[12]

During the primary campaign, Feingold unveiled an 82-point plan to eliminate the deficit by the end of his first term.[13] The plan, which called for, among other things, a raise in taxes and cuts in the defense budget, was derided as "extremist" by Republicans and "too liberal" by his Democratic opponents. Feingold also announced his support for strict campaign finance reform and a national health care system and voiced his opposition to term limits and new tax cuts.

On primary day, Feingold, whose support had shown in the single digits throughout much of the campaign, stunned observers by surging to victory with 70% of the vote. [14] With only seven weeks before the election, the momentum created by this upset win, along with support from people who came out to vote for presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, allowed Feingold to beat Kasten by 6% on election day.

During his 1998 re-election campaign, Feingold once again eschewed big-money campaigning, despite the fact that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had targeted him for defeat.[15] Feingold placed a cap on his own fundraising, refusing to raise or spend more than $3.8 million (one dollar for every citizen of Wisconsin) during the campaign. In addition, he placed the same limits on his fundraising that he would have faced under the McCain-Feingold bill. He refused to allow his party to raise any soft money to air ads favoring him and he requested that several special interest groups, including the AFL-CIO and the League of Conservation Voters, refrain from airing pro-Feingold "issue ads." His Republican opponent, Congressman Mark Neumann, also limited himself to $3.8 million in spending, but allowed soft money to be used in his favor by a variety of pro-Republican groups.[16] On election day, an extraordinarily strong showing in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison allowed Feingold to win by less than one percent of the vote.[17]

In the 2004 Senate election, Feingold defeated the Republican candidate, construction magnate Tim Michels, by 12% (56%-44%), earning a third term. During the campaign, Feingold refrained from imposing spending caps on himself as he had in the past, and raised and spent almost $11 million. Although Republicans attempted to use that fact to paint him as a hypocrite, Feingold's records showed that more than 90% of the money came from individuals [18], that the average contribution was only $60, and that, once again, a majority of it was raised from Wisconsin residents. Feingold's victory was seen by many pundits as a vindication of the many controversial stances that he had taken during his second term, as it was by far his largest electoral victory thus far. Feingold even won many counties which also supported the re-election of Republican President George W. Bush.

Senate Career

Feingold regularly holds what he refers to as "listening sessions" in all 72 Wisconsin counties to listen to his constituents' concerns, and has held more than 900 since he was elected to office.[19]

In late December 2004, Feingold was appointed to be one of four deputy whips for the Senate Democrats. Feingold has pledged that the new role would not sway his maverick stance within the party or the chamber.

On August 17, 2005, Feingold became the first U.S. senator of either party to suggest a firm date for American withdrawal from the Iraq war, saying that he favored a complete withdrawal by no later than December 31, 2006.[20]

On September 22, 2005, during the hearing on Judge John Roberts's nomination for Chief Justice of the United States, Feingold became one of three Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote in favor of sending Roberts' nomination to the floor for a full vote. He also announced that he would vote to confirm Roberts. However, Feingold voted against Samuel Alito in committee and on the Senate floor, the first time in his career that he did not support a president's nominee.[21]

Feingold's primary legislative focus has been on campaign finance reform, fair trade policies, health care reform, environmental protection, a multilateral foreign policy, Social Security, abolishing the death penalty, and eliminating wasteful spending. Senator Feingold was the only Democratic senator to vote against a motion to dismiss Congress' 1998-1999 impeachment case of President Bill Clinton. In a statement, Feingold said House prosecutors must have "every reasonable opportunity" to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Clinton should be removed from office on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.[22] Feingold ultimately voted against conviction on all charges. In 2001 Feingold voted for the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft.[23] This decision was not popular with his party, but Feingold claims that he voted based on respect for the right for a President to choose his Cabinet, not because of his own personal opinions on Ashcroft. Feingold has also been an opponent of NAFTA and other free trade agreements, an unpopular position among some Democrats, but one lauded by others.[24]

Feingold is a recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. His name has been mentioned as a possible candidate in the 2008 presidential election, and several grassroots websites have been started to convince him to run.

2010 election

In 2010, Feingold lost his Senate seat to Republican new-comer Ron Johnson in a competitive race in a year that was tough for Democrats.[1]

Meet the cash constituents

Links to more campaign contribution information for Russ Feingold
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2006 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2006 election cycle Career totals

Committees and affiliations

Wikipedia also has an article on Russ Feingold. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Russ Feingold profile, The Washington Post, accessed January 2011.
  2. "Russ' Accomplishments," Feingold Senate Committee.
  3. "Feingold statement on Bush censure," Office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, June 4, 2006.
  4. Edward Epstein, "Colleagues cool to Feingold's bid to censure Bush," SF Chronicle, April 1, 2006.
  5. Klaus Marre, "Feingold calls for censure of Bush," The Hill, July 22, 2007.
  6. Klaus Marre, "Feingold calls for censure of Bush," The Hill, July 22, 2007.
  7. Klaus Marre, "Feingold calls for censure of Bush," The Hill, July 22, 2007.
  8. Russ Feingold, "Statement of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold on the Gun Manufacturers Liability Bill," Office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, April 3, 2004.
  10. Office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, "Biography of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold,"
  11. Office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, "Biography of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold,"
  12. "Promises Made, Promises Kept," Feingold Senate Committee.
  13. "Russ' Accomplishments," Feingold Senate Committee.
  14. "Russ' Accomplishments," Feingold Senate Committee.
  15. Ruth Conniff, " The Patriot: Could Russ Feingold's defense of civil liberties cost him his job?" The Isthmus, July 3, 2003.
  16. Ruth Conniff, " The Patriot: Could Russ Feingold's defense of civil liberties cost him his job?" The Isthmus, July 3, 2003.
  17. "Russ' Accomplishments," Feingold Senate Committee.
  18. "Russ Feingold 2004 Senate Campaign Financial Data," Opensecrets
  19. Office of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, "Biography of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold,"
  20. Richard Mial, "It’s time to think about ‘Iraqization’," La Crosse Tribune, October 31, 2005.
  21. John Nichols, "Feingold: Alito Would Be "Dangerous Addition" to Court," The Nation, January 24, 2006.
  22. "Democrat bucks party line to vote with GOP in Clinton hearing," CNN, January 28, 2007.
  23. Ruth Conniff, " The Patriot: Could Russ Feingold's defense of civil liberties cost him his job?" The Isthmus, July 3, 2003.
  24. [ "Russ Feingold vs. Tim Michels,"] Feingold Senate Committee.

External resources

Local blogs and discussion sites

External articles

By Senator Russ Feingold