Feingold: Politics As Usual

Russ Feingold’s reputation as an independent non-politician who transcends politics is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, as the kerfuffle over his pet political action committee demonstrates.

At issue is the Badger Pledge, a challenge to eschew outside spending in the 2016 Senate race issued by Feingold to Senator Ron Johnson. Feingold rolled out the Pledge knowing Johnson can’t sign it; the Senator will need the help of the NRSC next year, plain and simple. The pledge wasn’t genuine because, unlike Johnson, very little about Feingold is genuine.

Any political strategy wonk or armchair operative could tell you that Feingold made the challenge as a media ploy. It was nothing more than a red herring to distract from the critique by Dan Bice of Feingold’s personal slush fund political action committee that Feingold’s well-paid loyalists knew was about to hit the papers.

That Feingold operates within the murky mire of politics just like those evil Republicans was apparently news to the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s new leader.

Appearing to genuinely believe it, the DPW’s new chairwoman Martha Laning told Capitol City Sunday host Greg Neumann that the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel hit Feingold over his PAC shenanigans because Sen. Johnson needed to change the subject from the Badger Pledge.

Neumann was diplomatic in telling her she had her order of events backwards…no, you rube...Feingold came out with the pledge because he knew the Journal Sentinel was about to hit him on his use of his Socialists Progressives United leadership PAC as a personal slush fund to pay his loyalists six figure salaries in exchange for putting their careers in park pending a 2016 grudge match. He also used the fund to pay himself.

By contrast, Johnson is the real deal. He literally balks at being called a politician – he considers himself a citizen legislator on a mission to address the nation’s fiscal situation, which his predecessor helped to ruin.

Any residue of Feingold’s former reputation as a perpetual outsider is wearing thin. As the race gets going, Feingold’s comedy-of-errors career in the Senate will be a punchline – it was a prolonged period of thumb sitting punctuated by the occasional failed policy, like campaign finance “reform” that inadvertently shoved political spending into the dark corners of politics (dark corners where a decade later Feingold now visits on occasion to collect it); an $830 billion bailout for public sector unions “stimulus” package, after which we have rougher roads and rustier bridges; and Obamacare, which is nothing short of a disaster for people who just want 40 hours a week and a deductible they can afford.

Come to think of it, there’s really nothing funny about Feingold’s bopping from one lefty cause to another or his naïveté as it concerns foreign threats.

Feingold is worse than politics as usual. He’s a populist maker of loud statements, but not much of a thinker, technocrat, or leader. And when he does do something, he does great harm to the working people he’s always claimed to represent.

About the writer: Chris Rochester has worked in communications and finance for a state Senate and congressional campaign, consulted on numerous Assembly and local races, and has held leadership roles in his local Republican Party. He's communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.