An organization that is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D) campaign to recapture his old Senate seat in Wisconsin used its sister entity to employ Feingold’s daughter as recently as this past May. The Humane Society Legislative Fund, not to be confused with local humane societies, is airing a television ad urging voters to cast their ballot for Feingold when they vote in one of the most contentious and closely watched Senate races in the country. As it turns out, Feingold’s daughter spent years working for the Humane Society of the United States, the parent organization of HSLF.
According to filings posted to the Federal Election Commission’s website, the Humane Society Legislative Fund is spending a stunning $399,390.78 on a television ad buy supporting Feingold. The ad began running in Wisconsin on Tuesday according to the filings. The HSLF is located in Washington, D.C.
Feingold’s daughter, Jessica Feingold Lieberson, currently lives in the D.C. metro area and from December 2011 until May of this year, she worked as the Humane Society of the United States’ federal legislative specialist. In that job she was responsible for, “Build[ing] and maintain[ing] coalitions with other nonprofit organizations, industry groups, local and federal law enforcement officials, and religious leaders.”
From 2009 to 2011, Feingold Lieberson was the director of grassroots campaigns for HSUS. According to her LinkedIn profile she, “Organized an array of lobby days, briefings, and press conferences to support organization’s legislative goals.” From 2007 through 2009, she worked as a grassroots coordinator at HSUS.
The Humane Society of the United States does not itself engage in political activity, but the Humane Society Legislative Fund is its political arm. A press release announcing the Wisconsin ad buy explained, “The Humane Society Legislative Fund is a social welfare organization incorporated under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code and formed in 2004 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The Humane Society of the United States.”
According to a review of independent expenditure filings, Feingold is the only U.S. Senate candidate directly benefiting from HSLF’s independent – so-called “dark money” – campaign efforts right now.
In August, Feingold Lieberson wrote a fundraising solicitation for her dad’s campaign. “[O]ne of the best things about my dad is that he cares so passionately about equality for all women,” she wrote. “I’m so proud of my dad. I can’t wait until he’s back in the Senate standing up for all of us.” The note concluded with a link to an ActBlue fundraising page for Feingold’s Senate campaign.
Lieberson’s time working on federal relations for the Humane Society did overlap with her father’s time in the Senate.
When the HSLF ad starting airing, the Wisconsin Humane Society received numerous calls from viewers unhappy the organization was picking sides in the Senate race. The WHS clarified that it has nothing to do with the advertisement.