Progressive hero Russ Feingold, who was instrumental in passing campaign finance reform while in the U.S. Senate, has lived off of donations to his own political action committee, Progressives United, since leaving the Senate and serving briefly in the State Department.
Although Progressives United was supposedly created “to support candidates who would stand up to corporate influence” the money raised by the PAC has largely ended up supporting Feingold and his friends
It appears that Feingold used angst in Wisconsin over Act 10, which reformed collective bargaining for government employees, and promises of supporting, “every single Democratic candidate on the ballot in July,” to raise money to line his own pockets in 2011.
“We only need to elect three new state senators to stop Scott Walker’s radical agenda permanently,” read the successful fundraising email that, according to Progressives United, raised over $130,000 from over 2,400 individual donors in less than a week.
Marquette professor of law and public policy Charles Franklin pointed out at the time that this fundraising on behalf of recall candidates would help Feingold if he ever decided to run for office again, and Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Gillian Morris expressed her appreciation for Feingold’s efforts to take back the Wisconsin State Senate.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin Democrats, this fundraising plea was the same as everything else the Progressives United PAC has done – pretty much nothing.
According to Progressives United’s Federal Election Commission filings from June 2011 (when the email was sent) through August 2011 (When the recall elections were held) the Democratic candidates running in Wisconsin recall elections never saw any of the money supposedly raised for them.
During that same time period the group paid Russ Feingold LLC $7,500 for consulting and management, and had a payroll of over $40,000 split among 9 staff members. Much of the remainder of the budget went to email, website, and database management, and direct mail and postage presumably to take advantage of events like Act 10 to further line Feingold’s pockets.
Bottom line: While pretending to help Wisconsin Democrats during the recall elections of 2011, Russ Feingold was really just using Progressives United to line his own pockets while giving absolutely nothing to the Democratic candidates he pretended to help.