Russ Feingold, member of the US Senate
, familiar to many as the second 'half' of the McCain-Feingold
campaign finance reform bill and the movement behind it, is an unabashed reformer
, a man whose faith in and work on behalf of democracy
is an inspiration.
His life story seems to embody the promise of America. Born in 1953 and raised in the town of Janesville, WI, (population 20000), where the Feingolds settled in 1917, he attended the University of Wisconsin and won a Rhodes Scholarship before getting his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1979. He returned to Wisconsin to practice law in Madison. Only three years later, at the age of 29, he was elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, and re-elected in 1986 and 1990, the later time facing no opposition.
In 1992 he ran for the US Senate, and his reform-themed campaign struck a chord with the voters. Feingold pledged to spend only $1 for every potential voter, and insured that no 'soft money' whatsoever was spent on his behalf. He famously painted his campaign promises on his garage in Middleton, WI. He won a three way primary with 70% of the vote, then went on to unseat two-term incumbent Robert Kasten in the general election. In 1998, the Republican party waged a nasty and expensive campaign to unseat him, but he was re-elected despite sticking to his $1 per voter and no soft money pledge. Every year he visits each one of Wisconsin's 83 counties on a 'listening tour.'
As noted previously, Feingold's signature issue is campaign finance reform. He has stated that the measure banning soft money that he and John McCain have authored is only the beginning of reforming electoral procedures in America. He is also concerned with the related issue of reducing wasteful government spending, especially the corporate special interest give-aways that are bought with campaign dollars, so much so that in spite of his ideology, a conservative watchdog group has consistently ranked him as the #1 senator in cutting wasteful government spending.
He is also active on other issues, such as preserving family farms and saving social security. Feingold has sponsored a moratorium on executions, citing the abuses of the criminal justice system and racial bias.
Feingold is very passionate with regard to the decorum and tradition of the Senate, especially the consensus nature of senate debate. It was for this reason that he stated that he could not in good conscience vote for the PATRIOT act, for debate on this far-reaching measure had been unfairly limited in his chamber. He was the only senator to vote against this measure in the wake of September 11, demonstrating yet again his capacity for taking principled stands. He keeps a picture of the famous Wisconsin progressive Robert LaFollette above his desk.
Senator Feingold is on his second marriage, and has two daughters, Jessica and Ellen, from his first. His wife, Mary, is a technical writer and has two sons, Sam and Ted. One of Russ' sisters is a pioneering female Rabbi.
Senator Feingold has a fan club who consider him the 'Handsomest Senator.'
Senate Judiciary Committee (chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee)
Senate Budget Committee
Senate Foreign Relations Committee (chairman of the Africa Subcommittee)
Special Committee on Aging