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Profile of Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Courageous Progressive

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Profile of Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Courageous Progressive

Senator Russ Feingold

Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate:

Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was elected to the US Senate in 1992 in a surprise victory over the Republican incumbent. He was reelected in 1998 and 2004. Sen. Feingold was defeated in his 2010 reelection bid by a Tea Party Republican candidate.

Sen. Feingold is an independent progressive thinker who votes the courage of his strong convictions. In 2005, he was the first senator to call for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. On March 13, 2006 and again on July 22, 2007, Sen. Feingold boldly called for Congressional censure of President Bush.

Also see Russ Feingold Gets It Right Again, Votes NO on Bailout.

Sen. Feingold and the USA Patriot Act:

In 2001, Feingold was the lone Senator who voted against the USA Patriot Act, despite pressure for a unanimous vote. He voted against the Iraq War in 2002, and was the first senator to call for a specific timetable for US exit from Iraq. On March 13, 2006, he called for censure of President Bush for illegal wiretapping of Americans.

While he supported 90% of the Patriot Act, he "voted against it because certain provisions...represent a very dangerous infringement on our civil liberties."

Sen. Feingold and the Iraq War:

Sen. Feingold was one of 23 senators to vote against the Iraq War, writing on October 11, 2002, "Both in terms of the justifications for an invasion and in terms of the mission and the plan for the invasion, Mr. President, the Administration's arguments just don't add up... "

On August 21, 2005, Sen. Feingold became the first senator to call for a specific U.S. withdrawal date, December 31, 2006, from Iraq.

McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act:

Russ Feingold is best known for his work with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to clean-up election campaign finance abuses, via the Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002. The act bans soft money contributed to candidates and parties, "thus closing the loophole that has significantly affected our national political priorities for the past decade."

He aims to blunt the influence of "larger moneyed interests." He exhorted that the 2004 Democratic Convention was a "corporate trade show."

Major Areas of Interest :

Senator Feingold's strongest legislative passions are reserved for fiscal ethics in government, elimination of deficit spending, education, civil rights, protecting American jobs and affordable healthcare for all Americans.

The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group for fiscal responsibility, has awarded him its highest rating each year since 1997 for his deficit reduction work. Taxpayers for Common Sense has repeatedly honored the Senator for his efforts to cut wasteful spending.

Senate Committees in 111th Congress, 2009-2010:

  • Judiciary Committee
  • Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, Property Rights, Chair
  • Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts
  • Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law
  • Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs
  • Foreign Relations Committee
  • Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, Chair
  • Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian & Pacific Affairs
  • Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Democracy and Human Rights
  • Budget Committee
  • Select Committee on Intelligence
  • Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe
  • Special Committee on Aging

Prior Experience:

After completion of Harvard Law School, he returned to Wisconsin to work as an attorney from 1979 to 1985. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate for three terms, serving from 1982 until 1992, when he was elected to the US Senate.

Personal Data:

  • Birth - March 2, 1953 in Janesville, Wisconsin
  • Education - BA from University of Wisconsin, Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University for BA, JD from Harvard University Law School
  • Hobbies - Golf, reading
  • Family - Divorced twice, two adult daughters.
  • Faith - Jewish. Has younger sister who is a rabbi in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Interesting Personal Note:

Senator Feingold grew up in a close-knit family that discussed religion and politics at the dinner table most evenings. His father, who died in 1980, was active in early Progressive politics and once ran unsuccessfully for local District Attorney.

In 1966, Russ Feingold heard Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in Chicago. "My heroes were Martin Luther King, Jr, John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. They were all assassinated by the time I was fifteen."

Memorable Quotes and Actions:

Despite likely being the poorest member in the Senate (often called a millionaires club), Senator Feingold has returned more than $50,000 in pay raises back to the Senate. He has vowed to take no pay raises during his term as Senator.

Senator Feingold opposed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, saying that he is committed to local control over decisions that affect our chldren's day-to-day classroom experiences.

Senator Feingold spoke at the 1996 and 2000 Democratic conventions, but was not asked to speak at the 2004 convention. When interviewed by reporter Amy Goodman on the convention floor in July 2004, "I think the platform should say that the war was a mistake....So I am a proud Democrat. I'm for Kerry and Edwards, but I know the war in Iraq was a serious mistake."

About the death penalty, Senator Feingold writes, "We cannot allow the spectacle of constant executions to be swept under the rug. We know that already 100 individuals who were on death row have been released. And we should shudder to think how many people have been sent to their deaths that were innocent."

Speaking in late 2004 about human rights catastrophes in Africa, the Senator said "While the admnistration's policy was failing on all of these fronts, the president's team was devoting its time and attention to selling the world and the American people a war in Iraq with fundamentally flawed intelligence, manipulative and misleading characterizations and rosy predictions that proved horribly, dangerously off-the-mark."

In a 2002 interview, Senator Feingold remarked, "I don't worry too much about what people think about my image...My colleagues say I am a gentleman in my dealings with them, even when I disagree. I am difficult because I won't back off on things...I'm not a go-along kind of guy....I didn't go to Washington to make friends. That's not where my friends are."

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