Russ Feingold Trades Principle For Political Gain

Russ Feingold famously refused outside money during his tenure as a U.S. Senator. So steadfast was Feingold’s belief that outside money was bad for politics that he told Politico in 2010 that he would “absolutely” rather lose than see outside groups air ads on his behalf.

One of his signature achievements was McCain-Feingold, which has been largely dismantled by the U.S. Supreme Court, but he is sticking to a pledge not to take outside money. He wrote the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee again this year asking that it not intervene on his behalf and told POLITICO that he would “absolutely” rather lose than see outside groups airing ads on his behalf.

But after losing in 2010 and after being shut out of the political process for 5 years, Feingold is subtly changing his tune. During a local TV news interview, Feingold carefully dodged a reporter question about outside money:

REPORTER: “Will you take or use third party money?”

FEINGOLD: “I believe that we shouldn’t have these super PACs. I think they’re a horrible system. It corrupts our system, and I would hope there wouldn’t be any of them.”

See what he did there? Feingold never said he would refuse outside money. He just doesn’t like it. He doubled down on that position, backpedaling on his “signature” campaign finance legislation twice in three days. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more:

“Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that these people have a constitutional right to do this, it’s deeply unfortunate, but that’s their right. So if a candidate takes the view, which I do, that there shouldn’t be any of these organizations, they don’t have to listen to me. But I’m going to say right here, I don’t think there should be any Super PACs.”

Feingold added in a follow-up statement to the interview that because of the court’s rulings on independent groups, “we have no control over what they do.”

So in 2010, Feingold told outside groups to back off. But after losing that race, he’s saying “that’s their right.”

Feingold must be running because he thinks DC needs more politicians willing to sacrifice their principles to win.