June 15, 2015

Self-Proclaimed Campaign Finance Reform Champion Russ Feingold Started A PAC To Pay Staffers, Himself

russ feingold pac

In 1995, Russ Feingold had this to say about political action committees (PACs):

“Contributions by political action committees to individual candidates have undermined public confidence in the Senate as an institution.”

But today, Feingold, the former U.S. Senator who proclaimed to be a champion for campaign finance reform, finds himself in a tricky, hypocritical position.

In 2011, Feingold formed a PAC that was designed to pay his longtime staffers and himself. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more:

“[N]early half of the $7.1 million that Progressives United PAC has spent since 2011 has gone to raising more money for itself, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets.org. The data also show the group has paid another sizable chunk of money on salaries or consulting fees for Feingold, his top aide and eight former staffers.”

A mere 5% of the money raised by Feingold’s PAC went to candidates and parties, according to the Journal Sentinel. Feingold also formed a political nonprofit known as Progressives United Inc. The two organizations raised and spent $10 million in four years.

Given the opportunity to defend this behavior, Feingold’s team said nothing:

None of the on-the-record statements provided by the Feingold campaign explained why so much of Progressives United’s expenses went for fundraising, administration and salaries.

Nor did they say why Feingold’s PAC and nonprofit employed so many of his staffers, some of whom have since returned to his nascent campaign team.

It’s strange that Feingold’s team (profiteers from this system) couldn’t even muster a response, given his long record of apparently pretending to support campaign finance reform. Or perhaps his actions are just indefensible.