Feingold raising money to ‘shame’ former Democratic colleagues

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who is being discussed as a possible Democratic contender in 2012 for the seat held by retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, is raising money to publicly “shame” a bipartisan collection of congressmen in their home districts.

Feingold blasted out an email to the listserv of Progressives United, his Political Action Committee, on Tuesday asking for funds to target lawmakers who oppose a potential executive order mandating disclosure of campaign contributions by corporations with federal contracts.

“Not surprisingly, corporate interests in Congress want to keep this process in the dark,” Feingold wrote supporters. “Sadly, but predictably, it’s not just Republicans. Some Democrats are joining Republicans in pressing to keep the cycle of political money and federal contracts hidden.”

The former senator wrote, “Incredibly, they’re claiming that transparency will somehow lead to more corruption. I spent nearly two decades in the Senate, and I can tell you: that’s just baloney.”

Feingold wrote, “we’ve decided to take on those legislators who are unwilling to stand up to corporate power, and we’re naming names.” He listed three members of the Democratic caucus: Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House.

“These are some of the legislators claiming that if contractors are forced to disclose their political contributions, contracts will start going to the highest contributor,” wrote Feingold.

The call to action urged supporters to “contribute $5 now to help us shame some of the anti-transparency senators and representatives by running online ads targeting their constituents.”

McCaskill, who is notably being targeted by Republicans as a vulnerable incumbent, was not pleased with Feingold’s statement. The Hill reports that McCaskill was upset that Feingold did not make “the courtesy of picking up the phone and calling me.”

McCaskill said, “It is really discouraging to me that Russ would somehow make an allegation that this is about me protecting corporate interests.” McCaskill said that if Feingold had reached out to her first, “he would understand that this is about good government, this isn’t about corporate interests.”

Mandated financial disclosure is opposed by McCaskill because she believes that disclosing donations could harm the government’s ability to drive a good deal outside of partisan consideration. “Contracting decisions should be made on one basis and one basis only, and that is: How can we get the best deal? Not who you’ve given money to or how much you’ve given,” McCaskill said.

Feingold co-authored the landmark 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, which was partially overturned by the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United. The ruling allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns. The possible executive order is seen by advocates as a way of unveiling where the new money is going.