Wisconsin: Dem Feingold Broke Promise To Limit Outside Funds In Senate Bid to Unseat Johnson

The race for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin could well determine which party controls the Senate majority next January. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is facing voters for the first time since he was elected in the 2010 “Tea Party” wave that swept fellow Republican Gov. Scott Walker to office in Wisconsin. Democrats have placed their hopes to capture the seat on Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who served in the Senate for three terms before losing to Johnson.

Republicans have traditionally struggled to hold or win Senate seats in Wisconsin during presidential elections. In fact, the last time a Republican won a Wisconsin Senate race during a presidential year was 1980, when Bob Kasten (R) denied Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) a fourth term.

Earlier in the cycle the outlook was pretty bleak for Johnson, who had managed to maintain a fairly low profile across the state even while he frequently made waves as a reform minded conservative in Washington. When polled, significant pluralities of Wisconsin voters over the past few years have struggled to even say they have an opinion of Johnson. Two other Wisconsin Republicans, Walker and now-House Speaker Paul Ryan have consumed much of the local GOP’s attention and the media’s coverage with high profile state political battles and the 2012 pick of Ryan as the GOP VP nominee as well as his more recent elevation to the Speaker’s chair.

Feingold used the downtime to give Wisconsin voters a break, disappearing – literally – by taking a U.S. State Department post that sent him to Africa, and taking up teaching at California’s Stanford University Law School. He also taught a class at Milwaukee’s Marquette University Law School, taught some at a small college in Appleton, Wisconsin and started a political action committee, Progressives United, that kept his old campaign machine employed.

Conventional wisdom has been upended in the final couple of months, however, as polls consistently show Johnson and Feingold within the margin of error. Republicans and aligned groups showed some signs of potentially quitting the race, but recent polling as brought them back to the game. While most polls show Johnson down slightly, but well within the margin, at least one recent poll put him 5 points ahead of Feingold. The one poll that has given Feingold a double-digit lead is routinely discarded by Wisconsin politicos because it is notoriously unreliable.

Like Evan Bayh in Indiana, Feingold offered Democrats a known quantity headed into an election year that should have been a GOP sweep. Both are former senators, both have proven fundraising ability and both enjoyed generally good rapport with their state’s voters prior to leaving office. But both have extraordinary amounts of baggage.

Feingold’s declaration that he was the deciding vote in passing ObamaCare isn’t exactly a net positive for him right now. Johnson’s victory in 2010 came largely because of voter frustration with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. A new spate of news stories showing double-digit health insurance premium hikes in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and the departure of several large insurance companies from the marketplace are reminding voters of why they fired Feingold. No attempt to whitewash the new information will erase the fact that consumers are paying more for health insurance now than before ObamaCare, and that their health care plans have been substantially altered, if not outright cancelled.

In the race to raise cash, Feingold has beaten Johnson, $11 million to $7.9 million according to a survey of FEC reports by the left-wing Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG). But the group also found that Feingold has raised 75.65% of his funds from outside of Wisconsin; Johnson has raised half of his cash in Wisconsin. Feingold promised in 1992, when he first ran for Senate, that he would raise the majority of his campaign funds from inside of Wisconsin. The fact that he has raised fewer dollars in Wisconsin than Johnson, both in real terms and percentage terms, shows his comeback is fueled more by national Democrats than by Wisconsin voters looking to re-elect a beloved favored son.

Here’s the WISPIRG fundraising comparison:


Ironically, one of Feingold’s pet issues while in the Senate was campaign finance reform, and the infamous McCain-Feingold campaign finance law bears his name and fingerprints. While fighting for that bill, Feingold was fined thousands of dollars by the FEC for failing to report over $50,000 in campaign contributions during his 1998 re-election effort.

Evidence that the race is tighter than the Feingold campaign would like it to be came on Tuesday, when Feingold blasted Johnson for supporting a faith-based program that helps unemployed adults in Milwaukee’s inner city transition into the workforce. “It’s not enough to pick people up in a van and send them away a couple hours and have them come back exhausted at the end of the day,” Feingold said of the program.

It was an unforced error.

Another story that could dog Feingold is a new revelation that he charged high school students, a youth camp and a library all in Wisconsin over a thousand dollars each to deliver brief remarks. The speaking fees, which were paid after Feingold left the Senate, came to light when the Washington Free Beacon found Feingold’s ethics disclosure forms from his time at the State Department. The publication pointed out that Feingold was very clear in 2002 about what he wanted from a post-Senate life: “I don’t know what I’d do, but there are so many books to read, so many golf courses to play, so many dollars to make so I can pay the bills.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has gone all-in backing Feingold, appearing at events in Wisconsin and regularly sending out e-mails via Feingold’s campaign e-mail list.

Just who wins the Wisconsin Senate race will likely depend in part on how well Donald Trump does in the state. Trump has polled well in northern and northeastern Wisconsin, places Johnson needs to do well in, but his numbers are dismal in heavily GOP southeast Wisconsin. But voters there, informed by conservative talk radio, are likely to turn out for Johnson regardless of their distaste for Trump. Johnson will likely outperform Trump, but if Trump loses in a landslide, that might not be enough. With 13 days to go, the Wisconsin Senate race is still winnable by either side.

Russ Feingold Refuses to Repudiate Disastrous Iran Deal

Since praising President Barack Obama’s Iran deal in January, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has refused to distance himself from the agreement as his campaign to win his old seat back rolls on, and new details about the scope of the accord continue to emerge.

“I think it is right to talk about the great things the President has done,” Feingold told a Milwaukee radio station early in the year. “I mean, he’s accomplished some foreign policy goals that we’ve had for a very long time. . . . He’s helped us avoid a war with Iran, by having this nuclear deal that hopefully will work”.

Iran is still one of three state sponsors of terrorism according to the U.S. State Department, where Feingold worked as a special envoy shortly after losing his 2010 re-election campaign. The latest State Department report on terrorism worldwide concludes:

“In 2015, Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remained undiminished through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and Tehran’s ally Hizballah, which remained a significant threat to the stability of Lebanon and the broader region.”

Since Feingold first praised the Iran deal, the Obama Administration officials have admitted that a $400 million cash payment by the U.S. to Iran – something not disclosed as part of the broader Iran deal negotiations – was indeed “leverage” to secure the release of Iranian prisoners wanted by the U.S. “U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner ‘Leverage’,” declared The New York Times in an August headline. The story went on to explain that in Iran the payment was being called a “ransom” by local press.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has pointed out that while the Obama administration refuses to call the payment a “ransom,” the aircraft that was to carry the released prisoners out of Iran was not allowed to leave until the aircraft carrying $400 million in cash arrived on the ground in the country.

Additional payments to Iran since January have brought total U.S. payments to the country to $1.7 billion since the year started.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, both told a Senate committee last week that they were unaware of the payments to Iran and that neither the White House nor the State Department contacted them to let them know the payments were going to be made. “But Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry did not consult Secretary of Defense Ash Carter or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford,” Eli Lake of Bloomberg reported.                                                                                                             

On the heels of the payments organized by the State Department, the Treasury Department announced that it would allow airline sales between Boeing – a major defense contractor, Airbus – a European aircraft builder, and Iran to move ahead. “The United States has begun unblocking deals by Western giants to sell jetliners to Iran,” Reuters reported on September 21.

Not once since the repeated cash transfers or the news that a U.S. defense giant may sell aircraft to Iran has Feingold, who claims to support fiscal transparency, spoken up about the matter. Feingold has received at least $155,000 in contributions from the J Street PAC, a political entity that itself was paid over half a million to lobby in favor of the Iran deal.

On his campaign website, Feingold talks about fighting ISIS (even though he voted repeatedly to kill a key weapons system that has been used in that fight) but he doesn’t mention the Iran deal.

The remarkable silence may have something to do with Feingold being appointed to a key State Department post under Kerry by President Obama. In 2013, the former senator was named special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa and in that capacity shuttled back and forth between the State Department and various African nations in an attempt to represent U.S. interests in the region and encourage more stability.

Whether or not the Wisconsin media press the Iran issue with Feingold remains to be seen. His opponent, Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has vocally and repeatedly criticized the deal.

Feingold Praises Warplane He Repeatedly Tried to Kill

In a bid to garner more support as he runs to recapture his old U.S. Senate seat, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) has begun to praise the capabilities of a warplane that he once tried to kill. In what he has dubbed his “Fiscal Fitness” plan, the former two-term Senator and ex-Obama Administration official offers a series of policy prescriptions that he claims will save taxpayers money. One of Feingold’s proposals is to kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which seeks to provide the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps with a next-generation fighter, in favor of retaining F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft.

As a Senator, Feingold repeatedly sought to cut funding for the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Using both stand-alone legislation and floor amendments, Feingold vigorously waged war on military readiness by attempting to force the military to stop buying the airplane.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” one Feingold bill declared.

But now that he’s back on the campaign trail, Feingold has changed his tune. Calling the F/A-18 and the Air Force’s smaller F-16 “cost-effective,” the Democratic Senator is insisting that the military not buy the newer F-35 in favor of keeping older aircraft flying. Feingold is skeptical that the F-35 will perform as advertised, and his plan calls for “Replacing this program [the F-35] with purchases of existing F-16s and F/A-18s.”

That may sound good, but it isn’t a straightforward solution. Lockheed is still building F-16s for allied nations, but Boeing, which builds the F/A-18, doesn’t build the older version of the warplane anymore; instead the company exclusively manufactures the very version Feingold repeatedly opposed in the late 1990s.

Feingold’s call for the Air Force to continue its dependence on aging but still lethal F-16 is out of step with the latest thinking by defense leaders and analysts. Recently, a Congressional committee that shared Feingold’s skepticism of the F-35 being able to live up to promises, began the process of examining whether or not the F-22 Raptor, still the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world, should be brought back into production. The Air Force, thanks to budget cuts, stopped well short of buying as many of the airplanes as experts suggested would be necessary to maintain a strong airpower edge.

Why Feingold’s plan doesn’t call for increasing F-22 purchases is unclear; it could simply be that Russ Feingold opposes new warplanes that allow the military to maintain its vaunted technological superiority. Alternatively, Feingold could have omitted the suggestion because his “Fiscal Fitness” plan wasn’t about putting forward serious policy ideas and was instead designed to look tough without actually focusing on real policy ideas.

Russ Feingold’s War on the F/A-18 Super Hornet

As darkness crept across Afghanistan on a late fall day in 2011, an F/A-18 Super Hornet flown by a U.S. Navy pilot released a single precision guided munition that killed a Taliban leader plotting to carry out attacks against U.S. ground forces. In the previous decade, F/A-18s flown by Navy and Marine aviators flew thousands of missions executing air strike after air strike in support of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

When President Barack Obama insisted on reducing the number of U.S. ground troops in the country, it was aircraft like the Super Hornet that served as a force multiplier allowing the U.S. to continue to keep insurgents at bay while protecting grunts on the ground.

Fast forward to August of 2014, and a pair of F/A-18s flying from the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush became the first U.S. warplanes to attack ISIS. Since 2001, the F/A-18 has seen service in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and served as an important tool for both Republican and Democratic Presidents. More critically, the F/A-18’s ability to fulfill both air superiority and ground attack roles has meant that it could provide vital protection for U.S. troops waging war on the ground.

It’s not an understatement to say that the F/A-18 has saved lives.

But none of this would have been possible if Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) had gotten his way. Twice, in two successive sessions of Congress, the ultra-leftist Democrat introduced legislation to kill the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In 1997, Feingold introduced S.520 which demanded that the Secretary of Defense immediately halt the procurement program for the F/A-18 E and F variants, which were intended to replace outdated F-14 Tomcats which were more expensive to fly and were relics of the Cold War.

“The Secretary of Defense shall terminate the F/A-18E/F aircraft program,” the legislation declared. Two years later, in 1999, Feingold introduced the exact same language in S.129.

Additionally, Feingold twice introduced amendments on the floor of the Senate to limit how many F/A-18 Super Hornets the military could buy. Large, bipartisan majorities rejected the amendments each time.

The Super Hornet is a modernized and larger version of its smaller predecessor, the F/A-18 Hornet. In the early 1990s the Navy, facing a shrinking post-Cold War budget, wanted to combine the functions of a fighter (the F-14) with an attack aircraft (A-6) and significantly upgrade the resulting plane to meet 21st Century threats.

To make the savings possible, the Navy – along with its subordinate force the Marine Corps – needed to fund the development of, and ultimately buy, the F/A-18 Super Hornet. Within the decade the military was taking delivering of the new warplane and barely into the 21st Century it would become a workhorse in the skies above the Middle East.

Why Feingold opposed the purchase of a cost-saving aircraft is unclear. According to Boeing, the current manufacturer of the Super Hornet, the plane “is the most cost-effective aircraft in the U.S. tactical aviation fleet, costing less per flight hour than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory.” Further, upgrades to the aircraft mean it is projected to be in service until 2040, making it a relative bargain in the ever expensive world of warplane development.

Feingold’s subsequent opposition to the war in Iraq hardly offers any justification for his ardent opposition to an airplane the Clinton administration wanted for its cost savings and multi-role capabilities.

As the long-time Democratic Senator runs to regain his old seat from Wisconsin this year, national security will be – and has been – a topic of debate. Explaining to Wisconsin voters why he opposed a warplane that has kept American fighting men and women safe will be a lot more difficult than offering vague pronouncements about American policy. Voters understand the difference between opposing various wars and opposing the tools that keep American service members safe and allow them to do their job and come home. The latter is hard to justify.

Feingold Loves Sanders, But Has Relationship with Clinton

Sen. Russ Feingold, the top Democratic candidate statewide in Wisconsin this year, is sitting on the horns of a dilemma as the Iowa caucus gets underway today. Feingold really likes the socialist policies of Bernie Sanders, but he has a relationship with the powerful and vindictive Hillary Clinton. As the pair face off today in neighboring Iowa, Feingold is struggling to not alienate any part of the Democratic party as he works to take out Sen. Ron Johnson (R) in a re-match six years in the making.

The struggle Feingold faces is one Democrats across the country face. In his heart, Feingold genuinely believes that Sanders, if not his personality then his policies, represent the next best step for the country. After losing re-election in 2010, Feingold started Progressives United PAC, a vehicle for continuing his involvement in Democratic politics. In January 2015, Progressives United gave Sanders $1,000.ClintonFeingoldEmail

Last week at a Milwaukee event, Feingold praised Sanders, calling him an “honorable person” and saying he felt a kinship with the self-described socialists. Straying from his talking point, Feingold even said he and Sanders “held out” for a single-payer option in ObamaCare when it was passed in 2009. Even amid the historic federal government power grab that was the Affordable Care Act, a single-payer option was viewed as so extreme it could threaten the legislation’s passage even in a Democrat-controlled Congress.

But despite his fondness for the open socialism of the aged Sanders, Feingold does have to weigh the awful consequences of challenging the Clinton machine.

According to an e-mail from Clinton’s personal e-mail server, Feingold reached out to then-Secretary of State Clinton asking for a personal meeting in 2009. An e-mail from Huma Abedin, a Clinton confidant and aide, to Clinton’s “[email protected]” account, Feingold wanted to talk or meet with Clinton between 8am and 9am on Sunday, August 2.

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Clinton’s ownership and use of private, unsecure e-mail accounts and personal e-mail servers has become a major issue for her on the presidential campaign trail. At least 1,600 of Clinton’s private e-mails were classified, and on Friday it was reported that at least 22 of the e-mails she sent or received on her private server were “Top Secret” or higher in their classification. It is illegal to send or receive classified government information on a personal or unsecured e-mail system.

Just how long Feingold will continue to walk the tightrope between Sanders and Clinton depends on how long the Democratic presidential primary lasts. But as the race sweeps across the country and comes closer to Wisconsin (which votes on April 5), the baggage of both candidates will threaten Feingold, who needs to run as a very independent Democrat to beat Johnson and recapture his old Senate seat.