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Russ Feingold

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Senator Russ Feingold

Russell Dana Feingold (born March 2, 1953) is an American politician from the U.S. state of Wisconsin. He has served as a Democratic member of the U.S. Senate since 1993. Feingold is best known for his maverick voting and co-sponsorship of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act ("McCain-Feingold Bill"), a major piece of campaign finance reform legislation. His name was mentioned in 2005 as a possible candidate in the 2008 presidential election.

Contents

Early life

Feingold was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, to Leon Feingold, an attorney, and Sylvia Feingold, a worker at a title company.

Education and early career

After receiving his diploma from Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville, Feingold went on to graduate from UW-Madison with honors in 1975, went to the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in 1977, and finished Harvard University Law School in 1979 with honors. He worked as an attorney at private law firms from 1979 until 1985. In 1982 he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate where he served until his election to the United States Senate.

Family life

He has been married twice, to Sue Feingold and Mary Feingold. Russ and Sue Feingold were married for nine years and had two children, Jessica and Ellen, before divorcing. Russ married the future Mary Feingold (also previously divorced) on January 20, 1991. Mary Feingold (ne Erpenbach) had previously been married to Timm Speerschneider, a Madison attorney, with whom she had two children: Sam and Ted. On April 11, 2005, Russ and Mary Feingold jointly announced that they would be seeking a divorce. [1] (http://www.jsonline.com/news/nat/apr05/317534.asp)

When not in Washington, Feingold resides in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Campaigns

Senate

Feingold's senatorial career began in 1992 with a surprising victory over Republican incumbent Robert W. Kasten, Jr. Feingold won the Democratic Senate primary against two opponents. During the general election cycle, Feingold's campaign created several offbeat and humorous political ads emphasizing Kasten's perceived lack of availability to the people of Wisconsin, a strategy which helped him achieve victory with a 6% edge over Kasten.

Feingold continued to oppose soft money during his 1998 reelection campaign, despite millions of dollars spent by his opponents in attack ads against him during the general election. In the end Feingold managed a 2% win over his Republican opponent Mark Neumann.

In the 2004 Senate elections, Feingold defeated Republican candidate Tim Michels by 12% (56%-44%), earning a third term. Notably, the Feingold campaign was assisted by significantly more soft money than it did during the 1998 campaign. Some Republicans charged that this was hypocritical considering his positions on campaign finance reform, but his supporters noted that candidates have little control over outside political action committees. In either case, 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.

Senator 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 850 since he was elected to office.

Perhaps as a result of his success in the 2004 elections, in late December 2004 Feingold was appointed as one of four deputy whips for Senate Democrats. Feingold pledged the new role would not sway his maverick stance within the party or the chamber.

Possible Presidential run

There is talk of Feingold seeking the Democratic Party's Presidential or Vice-Presidential nomination in 2008. In December 2004, a website urging Feingold to run for president was created, followed by others. [2] (http://www.draftruss.org) [3] (http://www.russforpresident.com/) In late January 2005, Feingold told the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County, Florida that he intended to travel around the country before deciding whether or not to run in 2008. [4] (http://www.jsonline.com/news/state/feb05/298859.asp) In March 2005, his senate campaign registered the domain www.russfeingold.com, as well as the .org and .net versions; Feingold will not face reelection to the Senate until the 2010 election. [5] (http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/features/index.php?ntid=32422&ntpid=1) On June 1, Feingold launched a political action committee, the Progressive Patriots Fund (http://www.progressivepratriotsfund.com). Launching a PAC is seen as an important step in running for President.

His recent announcement of divorce is believed by some, such as political scientist Larry Sabato, to mark the end of his Presidential ambitions, as being twice-divorced is a perceived liability among socially conservative voters. [6] (http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpress/news/local/11377205.htm) Others, such as blogger Markos Moulitsas Zniga (better known as "Kos"), have disagreed, pointing to successful Republican political figures with multiple divorces. [7] (http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/4/12/121034/106)

Bills and policy positions

Feingold's primary legislative focus has been on campaign finance reform, fair trade policies, health care reform, environmentalism, a multilateral foreign policy, Social Security, and abolishing the death penalty. Senator Feingold was the only Democratic senator to vote against a motion to dismiss Congress' 1998-1999 impeachment case of President Bill Clinton, and in 2001 he voted for the confirmation of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Neither decision was popular with his party, but Feingold claims that he voted based on respect for the due process of law and the right for a President to choose his Cabinet, not because of his own personal opinions on Clinton or 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.

Recently, the senator has been devoting his attention to the issue of Congressional pay raises. During his 1992 campaign, one of his three major campaign promises was that he would accept no pay raises during his term. Since then, he has returned more than $50,000 of pay raises to the U.S. Treasury. He is perhaps one of Congress's least wealthy members, with a declared net worth of $150,000.

On December 21 2004, Feingold wrote an article (http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2004/12/21/alabama/index_np.html) for popular webzine Salon.com regarding his golfing trip to Greenville, Alabama. After noting how friendly the people were, and that Wisconsin had many similar places, he expressed his sorrow that such a poverty-stricken area was "the reddest spot on the whole map", in spite of Republican policies that Feingold considered incredibly destructive to the lives of the poor and middle class. Alabama's Republican governor Bob Riley and Greenville mayor Dexter McLendon were perturbed at Feingold's description of "check-cashing stores and abject trailer parks, and some of the hardest-used cars for sale on a very rundown lot." McLendon invited Feingold back for a more complete tour of the city, and Feingold agreed. He visited the city on March 28, 2005, making amends and increasing speculation about his presidential plans for 2008.[8] (http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/NEWSV5/storyV5feingold29w.htm)

Campaign finance reform

Feingold is perhaps best known for his work alongside Senator John McCain on the campaign finance reform law, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, known as the McCain-Feingold bill.

Patriot Act

Feingold was the only senator to vote against the USA 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.

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 six Democrats in the Senate to vote against reauthorizing the so-called 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."[9] (http://www.senate.gov/~feingold/speeches/04/03/2004310624.html)

Ideological rankings

Americans For Democratic Action, a liberal advocacy group which rates members of Congress on a scale of 0 to 100, with zero being totally conservative and 100 being completely progressive, gave Senator Feingold a lifetime average rating of 96. With the death of Minnesota's Senator Paul Wellstone in 2002, this leaves Feingold tied with California's Senator Barbara Boxer for the title of the "most progressive person" in the Senate, according to ADA. At the same time, the Concord Coalition (http://www.concordcoalition.org/), a nonpartisan advocacy group that pushes for fiscal responsibility, has placed him on its "Senate Honor Roll" every year since 1997, making their suggestion that Senator Feingold is also one of the top budget hawks in Congress.

In 2004, the National Rifle Association gave him a grade of D (with F being the lowest grade and A the highest). [10] (http://www.nrapvf.org/Elections/State.aspx?y=2004&State=WI) On environmental issues, he was given scores of 100% from the League of Conservation Voters [11] (http://www.capwiz.com/lcv/dbq/vote_info/?sort=Last&command=results&last=feingold&submit.x=0&submit.y=0&submit=go), and 73% from CUSP [12] (http://www.uscongress-enviroscore.org/scoretable3.html). The American Civil Liberties Union gave him a score of 89%. [13] (https://ssl.capwiz.com/aclu/scorecard/?chamber=S&session=108&x=6&y=14#WI)

Committee Assignments

External links

Template:Wikiquote

Feingold for President unofficial sites


Preceded by:
Robert W. Kasten, Jr.
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Wisconsin
1993-
Succeeded by:
Incumbent

Template:End box Template:WI-FedRep Template:Current U.S Senators

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